"To try and take the emotion out of this debate, change the word 'water' to 'oxygen'."
This irrigator's sentiment seemed to have been the general consensus at the ACCC's water forum, for despite Griffith's renown for fiery exchanges on water, those in attendance put anger aside to start working on the way forward.
The three hour consultation on Monday at the Griffith Exies Club saw many take the chance to answer questions by ACCC Deputy Chairman Mick Keogh to highlight their experiences of water markets.
Proceedings kicked off 15 minutes late due to the 'unanticipated' number of people attending - some 100 from right across the MIA. Despite commissioner Stephen Ridgeway falling ill earlier in the day, Mr Keogh reassured the room that he hadn't been "scared off" by Griffith's reputation.
Speaking to Mr Keogh after the forum, he said this third meeting in Griffith highlighted different areas within the Murray Darling Basin had differing emphasis on certain problems and yet over it all was the concern over water availability.
"I think obviously there is a general concern about the prices of water and the demand in the market for water. You could say that's similar across all the places, particularly with allocation trades the way they are at the moment," Mr Keogh said.
Even if there are zero outcomes, as a result of that, just the fact that everyone can look at it objectively and understand what the situation is, is a good starting point.ACCC deputy chairman Mick Keogh
"I think beneath that there is an underlying concern that the reliability of water availability seems to have changed over the last five to 10 years, and I think there is a lack of understanding of why that is the case and what changes have occurred to drive that."
The forum saw speculation on speculators, differing views on the carry-over system, the difficulty of finding information and prices on the website, the lack of transparency in water licences, unintended consequences of conveyance, a market with flaws enabling water brokers to manipulate prices for a higher commission, as well as an 'outdated' paper system that hadn't kept up with modern times.
While nothing he heard particularly surprised him, he said what strikes him is the complexity in the different facets of the water market.
"We talk about the water market but there is a huge variety of sub-markets that make up the big picture. The rules, the complexity is quite amazing and is a real challenge for everyone to understand."
While he stopped at foreshadowing what the ACCC conclusions would be, he said they would note that increased transparency and real-time information about the water market has been a comment made at the forums to date.
"In any of our inquiries we understand that people have views of the situation from their perspective. We are all human, we all colour our perspective based on our experience, so certainly we are very well aware that in any of these processes we do have to weigh all of the various views," Mr Keogh said.
"I guess one of the advantages of this inquiry is the information-gathering powers we have been given, will allow us to be very objective about what's been happening.
"Most of the people you talk to, irrespective of whether they are a broker, and agent, an irrigator, they all say the same thing - it's good that in the end there will be a great deal of objectivity and transparency in the information we come up with.
"Even if there are zero outcomes, as a result of that, just the fact that everyone can look at it objectively and understand what the situation is, is a good starting point."
Sharing an "irrigator's perspective", Lizz Stott shared her frustration that trading wasn't done in "real-time", and mostly conducted through phone calls with water brokers.
"When broker's commissions are based on sell-price, there is potential - most act with integrity - but there is scope to manipulate the market if they so wish," she explained.
This more delicately put than Griffith Mayor John Dal Broi who condemned the trading market "distorted" and "corrupted".
Leeton's mayor Paul Maytom and general manager Jackie Kruger outlined the losses sustained in the diversity of irrigated agriculture.
When broker's commissions are based on sell-price, there is potential - most act with integrity - but there is scope to manipulate the market if they so wish.Liz Stott
He outlined that water going to the higher value crops "undermined by stealth" the smaller crops, which was an "unintended consequence of conveyance".
"Yes, there are merits in trade by the system is not set up to address conveyance loss."
Yet through it all ran the paramount issue of transparency.
Paul Pierotti from the Griffith Business Chamber received applause after comparing the lack of transparency in government officials not declaring pecuniary interests to football players betting on their own games.
"It's absurd. Politicians don't have to declare their pecuniary interests, and they are part of making the policies... it's obscene insider trading."
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