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Murray-Darling in the spotlight as Parliament set to debate Royal Commission

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 22 Jul 2019

The debate on establishing a Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling will begin today in the Senate, with a Greens Bill to establish a commission of inquiry.


“This Parliament has a chance to get to the bottom of the Murray-Darling’s woes and ensure those responsible for its ill-health are held to account,” Greens water spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young said.


“Like the Banking Royal Commission, the Senate’s support for a bill to establish a commission is an essential step in cleaning up the management of the Murray-Darling and stopping the rorts. 


“Farmers, communities and ecosystems throughout the Basin are suffering. We know there are problems with the way it is being managed, and Australians deserve answers.


“Most of the money allocated for the Plan has been spent and the River is still in deep trouble. The only way to ensure we get the answers we need, and those responsible are held to account, is with a comprehensive Royal Commission. 


“The South Australia Royal Commission began this important work but was hampered by the refusal of the federal government and other Basin States to participate. A million fish dead and revelations of ongoing mismanagement mean we must have answers.


“Our Bill will be before the Parliament today and I urge every Senator to do the right thing by the River, River communities and the environment and support a Royal Commission.”



Link to Bill:


Terms of reference


(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.

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