Revelations that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority has known about problems on the Barwon-Darling for at least a year shows it is not fit to investigate river compliance and a full judicial inquiry must now be called, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says.
Documents published by the Guardian Australia today indicate the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s Data Cube project picked-up compliance concerns on the Barwon-Darling at least a year before Four Corners lifted the lid on the allegations. But it is unclear whether the Authority did everything it could to act on these concerns or raise them at the highest levels.
ACF Chief Executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said the revelations, coupled with the damning interim findings of the Matthews Inquiry out of NSW, meant Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull now had no choice but to convene a full independent judicial inquiry into the problems on the river.
“The Murray-Darling is too important to lose to toothless agencies and special interests. We are concerned the Authority is a watchdog with little bite, and that there is little national enforcement to make sure the river gets its promised water,” Ms O’Shanassy said.
“The Authority shouldn’t be investigating issues that it did not, or could not, act upon in the first place.
“The community needs confidence that the massive effort to restore the health of the Murray-Darling is not being perverted by a handful of irrigator interests.
“That confidence can only be delivered with a national independent judicial investigation, that has the power to compel and protect witnesses. Anything short of that will not sort out this mess.
“Ultimately we need a strong and reformed Murray-Darling Basin Authority that can ensure all wildlife and communities that rely on a healthy river are being looked after.
“We can’t rely on the states like NSW that are investigating alleged mismanagement and corruption within government agencies. We need a strong, accountable Murray-Darling Basin Authority that can step in when the states fail.”