Following the Liberal and National party lines, Anne Webster has made it very clear that she does not support a federal royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin.
Her standard response to this question is that the Productivity Commission report and Vertessy report into the basin are yet to be fully implemented so let’s wait and see if the problems and health of the basin are addressed.
This is despite the findings of the South Australian royal commission into the basin, which highlighted gross maladministration, negligence and unlawful actions in drawing up the multibillion-dollar deal to save Australia’s largest river system.
Royal commissioner Bret Walker said the Murray-Darling Basin Authority was unwilling or incapable of acting lawfully and accused the architects of the plan of being driven by politics rather than science.
Furthermore, at last Wednesday’s candidates forum at the arts centre, Dr Webster made the extraordinary statement that there was too much water being allocated to the environment.
The fact is the Darling River is dry and the Murray River faces severe restrictions in the future. Irrigation water has been extracted in enormous quantities from the northern part of the river system, as evidenced in the ABC Four Corners program in 2017 Pumped and many other recent press articles. Farmers and communities along the river have had to rely on fresh water that they have purchased or has been donated and transported in.
With the damning findings of the SA royal commission and other recent scandals in the press involving members of Dr Webster’s own party, it is clear the river system has been grossly mismanaged.
My question to Dr Webster is: how can you support the Productivity Commission and Vertessy reports over a more powerful federal royal commission into the basin’s issues so that we can get to the truth of what has caused these devastating outcomes and find a solution to this mess before it’s too late?
It is what your river dependent communities deserve.