Water mess of Morrison Government's own making

04 December 2019

The under-siege Minister for Water Resources has been caught being loose with the truth on the Murray Darling Basin Plan yesterday.

Yesterday Labor called for the Minister to say when the promised powers would be delivered for the currently-toothless Inspector-General for the Murray Darling Basin, Mr Mick Keelty AO PSM.
In August the Minister said the creation of the Inspector-General had been in train for months.
Yesterday, in a panicked response, after thousands of farmers marched on parliament, and in response to Labor pressure about the Inspector-General’s powers, the Minister attempted to rewrite history when he said:
“…. I call on the states to accept the powers that we are asking for, a permanent position to take place, so that legislation can be finalised. And that legislation can't be finalised straight away because I need all the agreement of the states and we don't have that formally yet.”
But the Minister had issued a release as long ago as August 4, stating that the Water Minsters Council had greenlighted his plan for an Inspector-General.  
Well, which one is it Minister?
Why is this taking so long? What powers have you asked the states for, exactly? Where is the draft legislation? Are you calling on the states to endorse proposed powers and draft legislation that you haven’t developed yet?
If the Minister has proposed specific statutory powers, and draft legislation, then he should release them now.
On August 4 the Minister also said:
“A new Inspector-General will soon be policing the roll-out of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and will make sure all water users are following the rules.”
The Minister should explain to Australians what powers the Inspector-General has available to do the “policing”, and how even someone as eminent and well-respected as Mr Keelty can live up to public’s expectations of a tough cop on the beat, when this government has failed to make good on its commitment to give him statutory powers.
Months after the Minister said he had the “greenlight” from the states, Mr Keelty said recently that some government departments had given him false or incomplete information. This is a clear example of why the Inspector-General position needs statutory powers.
Like always - and particularly when matters of integrity are at stake - this Government is all spin and no delivery.
The Morrison Government is so paralysed by the Coalition’s internal politics of water and its own political self-interest that it has dropped the ball on getting these powers delivered.
As a result, trust and confidence in water management is at an all-time low, and the Morrison Government can’t get its act together.