News

Water review a must: Speak Up

By Cobram Courier

A review of water trading must be done by the next Federal Government, regardless of who is in power.

A commitment to review water trading by the Coalition was welcomed by the Speak Up Campaign as an important step in the process of returning fairness and equity to food production.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Federal Water Minister David Littleproud last week said if re-elected they would call on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to complete a review of water markets in the southern basin.

Speak Up spokesperson Jim Muirhead said with water trading at $600 a megalitre, which was unaffordable for most farmers, it was obvious there needed to be a review and a change of rules.

He said instead of being an input to support the environment and grow food, water had become an investment tool.

‘‘There are corporations making significant financial gains, but it’s at the cost of the family farmer’s viability,’’ Mr Muirhead said.

‘‘I’m not sure this was the intention when water and land were separated. We have had these unintended consequences of rule changes and they need to be rectified.

‘‘A comprehensive investigation into the water market and water ownership is well overdue and perhaps the announcement by the Prime Minister suggests Canberra might be starting to understand there is a real problem with water in the southern basin.’’

Mr Muirhead said it was only a small step, but hoped it would lead to an increased focus on the inequitable distribution of water, though acknowledged it would take ‘‘commitment and determination’’.

‘‘Any review needs to be completely transparent and involve communities impacted by past decisions. Governments need to bring farmers and communities back onto a level playing field,’’ he said.