A community group which garnered the support of 11,000 signatures on a water transparency petition is calling on the NSW Government to “get fair dinkum” with this challenging issue.
Political posturing has been stopping the passage through NSW Parliament of effective legislation that will ensure the right level of accountability and transparency in water ownership is achieved.
The Speak Up Campaign - which represents community, farming and local government – has called on the state government to deliver the effective legislation that is needed.
Chair Shelley Scoullar said it was disappointing that a Bill which would force politicians to declare their water interests, as well as create a searchable online water register, was being opposed by some in Government, including National Party Ministers.
“It begs the question: What do they have to hide?” Mrs Scoullar asked.
She said a government Water Accountability and Transparency Bill, which it wants as a replacement to a Bill from Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Member for Murray Helen Dalton, was too limited as it only effectively applies to Members acting in their personal capacity. This does not go far enough, if we want to achieve the goals of genuine accountability around water ownership.
“We collected 11,000 signatures calling for a water registry because people want change. They are fed up with politicians who are not prepared to make common-sense changes to water policy.
“They want transparency around water ownership and they want it retrospective. We have had too many poor water policy decisions, and this coupled with lack of action to correct them makes no sense, unless politicians and those they are protecting are trying to avoid genuine transparency.
“The losers in the water policy debacle that we are dealing with are the staple food producers that Australia relies on. The winners are those who are trying to make huge profits at the expense of those who are growing our food.
“We know the problem exists and we know it needs to be fixed. It is time proactive steps were taken so this is achieved,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She added for the water registry to be effective it needs to extend beyond ownership by a Member of Parliament in their personal capacity. At the very least it must include their family and business interests, as well as those involved in water policy and advocacy.
“It would appear the NSW Government is opposed to Mrs Dalton’s Bill, for no other reason than it has come from the SFF. It is this level of political game-playing that is causing distress for rural communities.
“The Bill followed the Speak Up petition; we want genuine water accountability and transparency, not a token effort.
“We want the State Government to be working more closely with rural and regional New South Wales, to achieve water policy that can restore the Murray and Murrumbidgee regions to their mantle of our nation’s premier food bowl.
“It can start by ensuring we have effective water ownership accountability, not a ‘Clayton’s effort’ which it is trying to force through parliament,” Mrs Scoullar said.