Major parties weak on $13B Murray-Darling Basin plan controversies

24 April 2019

Following the Liberal Party's letter to the Auditor-General and the Labor Party's call for a limited scope Commission of Inquiry into the water buyback controversy dubbed Watergate, Centre Alliance has called out both major parties as being weak on the governance and execution of the $13B Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

"Both approaches are uninspiring and fall well short of what's required," said Centre Alliance environmental spokesperson Senator Rex Patrick.

"Minister Littleproud wrote to the Auditor-General requesting an audit into water buybacks almost a year to the day after Centre Alliance had. The Auditor-General has had an audit of Strategic water buyback on his hit list for several months and confirmed with me this morning that 'the potential audit ‘Procurement of strategic water entitlements’ is included in the ANAO Annual Audit Work Program 2018-19'."

"And Labor's announcement today of a limited inquiry into the Watergate buybacks controversy misses the point. We have a river system in crisis with the fish kills at Menindee and the lack of drinking water at Walgett and Bourke. We have had theft and rorting, we've got taxpayer funded supply and efficiency projects that the Productivity Commissioner says are highly risky, we've got the SA Royal Commissioner finding there is political interference and maladministration and now the Watergate controversy involving a company domiciled in the Cayman Islands."

"Only a Federal Royal Commission with broad terms of reference will have the jurisdiction and scope to look at all of the issues that have been raised in respect of the Plan's governance and execution," said Rex.

Centre Alliance Senate candidate Skye Kakoschke-Moore said, "We don't have to wait for an election to call a Royal Commission. The caretaker provisions would allow for this if both Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten agreed. Both seem afraid to do what's right."

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie was very concerned with the very soft responses. "The Murray Darling is a national river system not just important to Mayo, but to the nation," said Rebekha. "It's the nation's food bowl and a $22B hub of economic activity. It must be governed properly and the public's lack of confidence in the execution of it must be addressed."

"We have the Liberals doing nothing and we have Labor being both soft and untrustworthy. I am reminded of the fact that Labor voted against giving 70 GL extra to irrigators in the Northern Basin before the SA election and then reversing their position after the election". said Rex. "The problem with Labor is you don't know what you are getting. The problem with the Liberals is that you do. Centre Alliance has consistently voted to protect the Murray Darling."

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