Toothless Murray Darling Inspector-General left waiting for statutory powers

02 December 2019

The Morrison government’s new Inspector-General has been left toothless indefinitely, in the government’s latest failure to ensure integrity in water management.
As a convoy of irrigators makes its way towards Parliament House, the Morrison Government must take action to provide Inspector-General Mick Keelty with statutory powers promised months ago.
The Inspector-General, announced on 1 August, still has no statutory powers, and no timetable to get statutory powers, despite the government claiming the announcement had been in train for months before being made.
Communities are pleased that eminent Australian Mick Keelty AO has taken up the role. Now he deserves the powers he needs to get to the bottom of concerns across the Basin.
The Morrison Government’s failure to empower the Murray Darling Basin Inspector General, a role they said would be a ‘tough cop on the beat’, once again shows they have a political strategy, but not a plan for action on integrity and transparency.
The Water Minister announced the appointment of a Murray Darling Basin Inspector General on 1 August in an attempt to arrest public concern over continuing water scandals.
But months after the announcement, which had purportedly been “in train for months”, the legislation has not yet appeared.
And despite the original announcement stating that the Inspector General would be able to refer issues to the Commonwealth Integrity Commission, that body is not yet in existence and has no timetable for implementation. And on the 9th of September, Morrison Government Senators voted against a bill to establish an integrity commission.
As is the case with other announcements from the Morrison Government, this is action and integrity on the never-never.
Labor is calling on the Federal Water Minister to release a concrete timetable for an exposure draft bill so Australians can assess how long it will take for the Inspector General to be empowered to perform this vital role.
The Murray Darling Basin communities and Australians more broadly deserve action to address the avalanche of scandals and water integrity issues which are undermining public confidence in the Basin’s operation.