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ROYAL COMMISSION INTO MURRAY-DARLING MANAGEMENT IS ESSENTIAL

8 April 2022

Independent Senator Rex Patrick has welcomed the Labor Opposition’s commitment to ensure the 450GL of environmental water is delivered to South Australia, but has urged Anthony Albanese to go further and commit to a Royal Commission investigation. Furthermore, he must not just commit to deliver the 450GL, he must also spell out in detail how he intends to do so.

"I welcome Mr Albanese's commitment, if elected to Government, to ensuring SA receives its 450GL of environmental water, but South Australians must remember the Labor Party is also beholden to its party's interests in New South Wales and Queensland. That's why we need strong South Australian independent representation to hold them to account in the Senate and ensure they deliver on the Plan."

"The Liberal-National Government’s handling of the water portfolio is mired in serious claims of flawed and improper conduct that must be properly investigated."

“There are many questions that must be answered as to whether $80 million of taxpayer dollars were spent on real water or goanna water, whether certain ‘big end of town’ players received preferential treatment, whether taxpayers' dollars funded a tax haven profit stripping scheme and whether there were ministerial conflicts of interest."

"The only way to really deal with all of these issues is to have a Federal Royal Commission."

“As long as vested interests continue to exert influence through their state governments, little progress to save the Murray-Darling will be made. We've already seen this through the failure of federal and state governments to make a substantive response to the recommendations of South Australia's Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission that exposed the bankruptcy of the current management of Australia's most important river system."

"The current trajectory of the Murray-Darling Basin is one of environmental decline, no doubt accelerated by climate change. It is at risk of becoming an over-exploited wasteland – Australia’s own Aral Sea."

Valuations obtained by Senator Rex Patrick under FOI in 2020 revealed the taxpayer paid almost double the nominal value and well above an independent valuer’s maximum recommended price for water from Clyde and Kia Ora, the properties at the centre of the Barnaby Joyce ‘Watergate’ scandal.

"This sort of recklessness by politicised public servants, overseen by Coalition Ministers, undermines public confidence in both the Government and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan more generally. This disgraceful saga reinforces why we need a Federal Murray-Darling Royal Commission with full powers to obtain documents and compel witnesses to give evidence. Only then will we be able to restore faith in the Plan and be confident of the long-term future of our river.”

“We also need to see an end to the ‘jobs for the boys’ appointments of Liberal National Party cronies. Albanese should sack these appointees if Labor forms Government after the next election. That would go some way to restoring confidence in the governance of the Murray-Darling Basin.”

"Mr Albanese must also provide details of his plans to ensure South Australia receives the 450GL of environmental water. Thus far the Coalition has only delivered 2GL of the 450GL, but purport to fully support its delivery. Commitment is not enough - a plan is essential."

Senator Patrick is also calling on Scott Morrison to strip the Nationals of the water portfolio if Coalition retains Government at the next election.

"The Nationals have been allowed to run water policy as a partisan fiefdom in the interests of their big irrigator mates in South West Queensland and Western New South Wales. If the Prime Minister has any commitment to good governance and ethics, he should remove the water portfolio from the control of the Nationals."

"Australian taxpayers, stakeholders in the Murray-Darling Basin and that great river system all deserve much better than what the Nationals have offered up."

“When it comes to water policy, the Nationals are the political equivalent of European Carp. One way or another they need to be flushed out of our vital waterways."