NSW water report highlights need for independent judicial inquiry

Date posted: 11 September 2017

Hon Ian Hunter MLC

Minister for Water and the River Murray

The interim report by Mr Ken Matthews into allegations of water theft and corruption in New South Wales confirms the need for an independent judicial inquiry.

Mr Matthews’ investigation has been hampered by missing documents and his inability to interview key individuals who are alleged to have been involved in water theft.

He has even acknowledged that water theft and non-compliance may still be occurring and calls for further investigations.

A key theme of the interim report is that Mr Matthews simply doesn’t have the powers he needs to conduct a full investigation into these allegations and instead is left with more questions than answers.

The interim report and initial investigation by Mr Matthews is a damming assessment of the NSW water compliance and enforcement system.

What we need to see now is an investigation with powers to compel these key witnesses, key individuals who are alleged to have stolen water out of the Basin system.

One key recommendation strongly calls a separation of powers when it comes to the water and agriculture portfolios.

This holds true on a Commonwealth level as well – Barnaby Joyce can’t be both the Water Minister and the Agriculture Minister.

Australians will now be asking for Malcolm Turnbull to take action at a Commonwealth level to also decouple the water and agriculture portfolios.

This report serves as a call for action to both the NSW Government and also the Commonwealth Government to address concerns about our Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the continued health of our rivers.