SOUTH Australia’s proposed royal commission would not stop water theft and it is almost certain it won’t even happen. This is why it is a political stunt.
What will stop water theft is co-operation between the states and the Commonwealth to implement the recommendations of the Murray-Darling Basin Water Compliance Review, conducted by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and released last week.
New South Wales and Queensland have the most work to do.
They need to address cultures of non-compliance and a lack of resourcing for enforcement activity.
The Victorian Government has work to do, too.
The review identified a “lack of a full suite of penalties and sanctions” in Victoria.
The Nationals have already acted on this advice, recommending Water Minister Lisa Neville put in place broader infringement penalties we proposed as part of the Water Bill 2014 that has sat on the minister’s desk gathering dust since she took on the portfolio in December 2014.
Importantly, the MDBA review recommends a “no meter, no pump” policy.
For those of us who irrigate in the southern basin, the idea of pumping water without a meter in 2017 seems bizarre. But that’s what’s happening in the northern reaches of the Barwon and Darling rivers.
The next step towards stopping water theft is for the states to agree to the review recommendations, including the “no meter, no pump” policy, when they meet in December. That is how we stop water theft.
A South Australian royal commission couldn’t compel officials or irrigators from other states to give evidence, and certainly can’t order them to put meters on pumps.
That’s why I believe it is just a Labor stunt ahead of South Australia’s looming state election.
Member for Mildura