In his letter “Royal Commission bid is a stunt” (4/12), Peter Crisp bags out the proposed South Australian royal commission as a Labor election stunt.
No doubt it is, but when looked at in the context of the politics of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and of the multiple post-Four Corners inquiries, the proposed royal commission is justified.
In terms of basin plan politics, SA is the poor cousin, being outgunned by an effectively anti-plan alliance comprised of water ministers Barnaby Joyce, Niall Blair, and Lisa Neville, and their respective bureaucracies.
This alliance has successfully diminished the original scope of the plan, truncated recovery of water for the environment and is moving to abandon recovery of the 450GL of upwater regarded as essential to a workable plan by environmentalists and by SA.
Politically, SA has been ineffective in opposing this alliance, and the SA Water Minister Ian Hunter has clearly struggled, so it is timely for SA to attempt to recover its position.
As to the inquiries, they have only conceded what they’ve been forced to by the political realities.
No prosecutions have resulted, and history is yet to show that their recommendations will result in
delivery of substantive reforms.
A coercive inquiry with real teeth is clearly needed, but has been blocked by the federal/NSW/Victorian alliance, so SA has been forced to go it alone.
Compelling witnesses to attend might be problematic, but there will be plenty of voluntary witnesses giving up blistering testimony.
For example, into the relationships between particular political parties, industry groups and bureaucracies, and the water take and compliance outcomes related to those relationships.
Mr Crisp and the rest of us can look forward to valuable insights.
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