Separate inquiry sought

November 02, 2017

Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville has repeated calls for an independent inquiry into allegations of water theft in NSW.

The issues were raised in a report broadcast on the ABC program Four Corners.

Ms Neville has responded to a question from State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed, who asked for a judicial inquiry into the issues raised in the report.

‘‘There are now five inquiries, reviews, audits and evaluations under way into allegations of water theft, compliance issues and a range of other issues which raise questions about the integrity of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and its role in implementing, monitoring and ensuring compliance with the plan,’’ Ms Sheed said.

‘‘None of these investigations will provide a comprehensive assessment of the myriad allegations and overall operational health of the system.’’

Ms Neville responded in parliament that the report raised questions about the integrity of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

‘‘That is why we have called for an independent investigation that would have the powers of a judicial review, or a royal commission, to enable the inquiry to both subpoena witnesses and call for documents.

‘‘And we need to do that because we need to ensure that we can rebuild confidence in the basin plan.

‘‘The fact that the Commonwealth Government have basically enabled the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to investigate itself is not appropriate, and it does not provide assurance to communities of its independence and that we will get to the bottom of this issue. Victoria strongly supports that independent inquiry.’’

Ms Neville said the inquiry should look at the water rules and compliance across all the states, including Victoria, because the Victorian Government believed the state rules would stack up against those around the nation.

‘‘Without that independent inquiry we cannot have confidence in the plan, and communities will not.’’

The minister also repeated an assurance that Victoria would press its case that the 450Gl of up-water could only be delivered for a neutral or better socio-economic impact.

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