Government to act on southern Murray-Darling Basin water sharing report

17 April 2020

The Interim Inspector-General of Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources Mick Keelty has presented his report into water sharing arrangements in the southern Basin to the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt.

“Mr Keelty’s inquiry focused on the water sharing arrangements in the Murray-Darling Basin and how they work with state water allocation policies” Minister Pitt said.

“This report reinforces the need to improve the transparency, accessibility and availability of information about Murray-Darling Basin water matters.

“I accept the five key recommendations of Mr Keelty and I have directed both my department and Murray Darling Basin Authority to take action to implement them.

“It’s important to remember that this is one of three key inquiries that together will help guide Commonwealth and state governments’ policies around the management of the Murray-Darling Basin.

The others are the Sefton Report into socio-economic circumstances among Basin communities and the ACCC inquiry into the water market,” Minister Pitt said.

“I also welcome today’s ABARES report confirming Australia is one of the most food secure nations in the world despite the drought and the future outlook is even more positive.”

Minister Pitt thanked the Interim Inspector-General for the detailed work that went into his report.

“Mr Keelty met directly with over a thousand Basin residents, undertook 80 additional interviews and considered 354 public submissions during his inquiry.

“I would also like to acknowledge all those people who gave up their time to provide insights and ideas to assist the inquiry,” Minister Pitt said.

“It has been a difficult time for irrigators and irrigation communities throughout the southern Basin. They’ve faced drought, bushfires, and now COVID-19.” 

“This report is not the end of Mr Keelty’s engagement with Basin communities.

“He had intended to return to present his findings in person but the COVID-19 means Mr Keelty will now explain his findings to any community members who are interested through an online webinar.”

“What we can and will do now is implement Mr Keelty’s recommendations. I look forward to reporting progress on that in the months to come,” Minister Pitt said.

Interim Inspector-General Keelty’s investigation report can be found here. The scope of his inquiry is outlined here

Background:

  • In 2019, my predecessor Minister Littleproud asked Mr Keelty to conduct an inquiry into two things.
    • The impact of changing distributions of inflows to the southern Basin on state shares under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement
    • Any consequential impacts on state water shares resulting from the reserves required under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement
  • The Australian Government will soon be responding to the findings and recommendations of other reviews into the Murray-Darling Basin on separate, but related issues. 
    • On April 30, the independent panel assessing social and economic conditions in the Basin will provide their final report to Minister Pitt.
    • By mid-2020, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will provide an interim report on its inquiry into Basin water markets to the Treasurer Frydenberg.
    • By mid-2020, the first review of the Water for the Environmental Special Account will be completed.