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Agriculture and Water portfolios together is a conflict of interest: Senate

The Senate today has supported an Australian Greens motion calling on the Government to split the Agriculture and Water portfolios.
 
“This motion clearly identifies there is a conflict of interest by grouping the Water and Agriculture Portfolios together – we know this because Barnaby Joyce has bragged about it himself,” Greens Murray Darling Basin spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
 
“Barnaby Joyce has made a mess of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, because, in his own words, he wanted to ‘look after’ NSW irrigators and ‘make sure we don’t have greenies running the show’. And this is just one piece of evidence that the Nationals are running a protection racket for greedy corporate irrigators.
 
“Australians have been ripped off to the tune of billions of dollars over the mismanagement of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and river communities are struggling. This Plan was put in place to make sure there was enough water to sustain the environment and communities that relied on the river, and Barnaby Joyce has watched over its disintegration.
 
“The Senate has sent a clear message to the Prime Minister that  this stark conflict of interest can no longer continue. While the Senate stopped short of calling on the Prime Minister not to return the water ministry to Barnaby Joyce, the Australian Greens will not give up in this fight.
 
“Downstream states have lost confidence in Barnaby Joyce and have lost faith in the Basin Plan – there is no way the Plan would survive if Barnaby Joyce got his hands back on the water ministry.”
 
Media contact: Amy Moran 0427 604 760
 
MOTION

The Senate –

  1. Notes that:
    1. Before his resignation, Barnaby Joyce was the Turnbull Government’s Minister for Water;
    2. The Minister for Water has authority over the function of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
  2. Notes further that, in his time as Minister for Water, former Minister Joyce:
    1. Dismissed the suggestion that the Commonwealth investigate allegations of water theft broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners program;
    2. Described instead those allegations as a conspiracy to “take more water” from irrigators in an effort to “shut more of your towns down”;
    3. Suggested that allegations that irrigators in New South Wales have undermined the Murray-Darling Basin Plan were an issue for New South Wales only, as “the people who live around where that water may have been taken live all in New South Wales.”
    4. Indicated that the reason he held the responsibility for the water portfolio was to “make sure we don’t have greenies running the show”;
    5. Said that the decision to incorporate the water portfolio into the broader agriculture portfolio was to “look after” irrigator communities in New South Wales; and
    6. Suggested the allegations were broadcast by Four Corners out of sympathy for “radical greens organisations”.
  3. Acknowledges that the Australian taxpayer has bought billions of litres of water back under the Murray Darling Basin Plan, giving all Australians, in every state and territory, an interest in ensuring this water is used for its stated purpose.
  4. Recognises that bestowing a single minister with responsibility for both agriculture and water creates a conflict of interest, and
  5. calls on the Government to split the portfolios of Water and Agriculture.
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