PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull has requested the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) consider conducting a national Basin-wide Compliance Review.
The move comes after ABC Four Corners last week exposed allegations of illegal water extraction and tampering with irrigation meters.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, will be writing this week to all Basin water ministers seeking their agreement to an MDBA review.
The MDBA strategic review would consider the legislative, policy and practical implementation of compliance and enforcement across the Murray–Darling Basin.
MDBA chair, Neil Andrew, welcomed calls for a national review, and said it was vital that everyone had trust and faith in the compliance system.
“The matters raised in the ABC Four Corners program are serious, every drop of water is precious. We all need to work together to protect environmental flows and low flows,” Mr Andrew said.
“The review will consider the effectiveness of the current rules and laws, measurement and monitoring, and governance arrangements. The MDBA will work with independent experts to conduct the review, and will announce the proposed review arrangements shortly.
“The review will be in addition to the other important tasks ahead for the MDBA over the coming months. We must keep going with the Basin Plan.”
The MDBA Basin-wide Compliance Review will complement the other actions underway including the NSW independent review Ken Matthews, NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) investigations, and the extended audit by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).
If accepted by the Basin states, the MDBA will present the review findings to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) by 15 December 2017.
MDBA chief executive, Phillip Glyde, said the MDBA was committed to reviewing its own assessment and compliance practices as part of the review, and would seek independent advice on MDBA’s delivery of their compliance responsibilities.
“It’s important that we fast-track delivery of the review, so that people across the Basin can see practical on-the-ground improvements to compliance,” he said.
“We are committed to delivering the Basin Plan on time and in full. Compliance matters must be addressed, so the Basin Plan can continue to deliver healthy and productive rivers. There is no Plan B.”