The Australian Greens have today released draft terms of reference for a federal Royal Commission into the Murray Darling Basin.
“We know our river is under extreme stress. Fish are dying and people are without clean water to drink. A Royal Commission is clearly warranted. It must be far reaching, take into account the effect the Plan has had on environment and river communities, and include the impact of climate change,” Greens environment and water spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.
“Corporate and political interests have corrupted the Murray Darling Basin. The plan meant to end the water wars and strengthen our most important river system has failed.
“The Murray Darling Basin Authority has been steered towards political and corporate interests, and Australian taxpayers can have little faith that it is doing what it is meant to do.
“The health of river has long since ceased to be a priority, which both the South Australian Royal Commission and the Productivity Commission Report have showed. This has adversely effected regional communities who are watching their river die before their eyes, while governments continue to use drought as a scapegoat.
“South Australians are sick of being blamed for what is mismanagement of the system upstream. I will unashamedly stand up for my state and for a healthy Murray Darling Basin above all else.
“The South Australian Royal Commission was hampered by the Commonwealth, and the other Basin States refusal to participate. Ministers past and present and government agencies were stopped from giving evidence. We need a federal inquiry to hold people to account and drive the reforms we so urgently need.
“In the meantime we need to urgently lift the freeze on water buybacks and get some environmental flows back into the river system. Saving this river is not going to be easy, but if we continue with business as usual it will die. There are no jobs, no river communities and no agriculture on a dead river.
“I will be reaching out to my colleagues ahead of the next sitting of Parliament to discuss these draft terms of reference. If we are to get this river system on track to full health, we need a solution that is supported across party lines, one that leaves no stone unturned.”
Media contact: Amy Moran 0427 604 760
(1) The Commission must inquire and advise the Parliament in relation to the following matters:
(a) any misconduct relating to, or affecting, the management of the Basin water resources;
(b) the legislative and administrative framework for implementing, managing and enforcing the Basin Plan;
(c) the impact that the implementation, management and enforcement of the Basin Plan has had on the environment, agriculture and communities that rely on the Basin water resources;
(d) the suitability and effectiveness of the existing legislative and administrative framework for the management of the Basin water resources, including any adverse effects that framework has had on the management of the Basin water resources (whether or not those effects are the result of misconduct);
(e) the allocation of funds by the Commonwealth and the Basin States to implement the Basin Plan, and the impact of funded projects (including water buybacks and efficiency measures) in facilitating environmental watering in the Murray-Darling Basin;
(f) the likely impact of climate change to the Basin water resources, and any appropriate measures to take to adapt those resources in light of that impact;
(g) any matter reasonably incidental to a matter mentioned in the above paragraphs.
(2) Without limiting paragraph (1)(a), misconduct includes any conduct of a person or body (whether or not a public agency):
(a) that adversely affects, or that could adversely affect, either directly or indirectly, the honest or impartial performance or exercise of a public agency’s functions or powers; or
(b) that constitutes or involves an offence against a law of the Commonwealth or a law of the State; or
(c) that constitutes or involves a contravention of a civil penalty provision under a law of the Commonwealth or of a State; or
(d) that would attract any other penalty under a law of the Commonwealth or a State, including a breach of a standard or licence condition; or
(e) that constitutes or involves breach of trust, fraud in office, nonfeasance, misfeasance, malfeasance, oppression, extortion or imposition.
(3) The Commission is not required to inquire, or to continue to inquire, into a particular matter to the extent that it is satisfied that the matter has been, is being, or will be, sufficiently and appropriately dealt with by:
(a) another inquiry or investigation; or
(b) a criminal or civil proceeding.
(4) In inquiring and advising in accordance with subsection (1), the Commission may give priority to matters which, in the Commission’s opinion, have greater potential for harm.