The disturbing findings of the interim Matthews report have again underscored the need for a full national judicial investigation into broader concerns that the Murray-Darling Basin is not being properly protected, the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) says.
ACF Director of Campaigns, Dr Paul Sinclair, said the interim Matthews report showed those charged with restoring the river’s health in NSW have failed to put in place measures to ensure a handful of powerful irrigator interests cannot benefit over the common good of having a healthy and flourishing river.
“These are damning findings and give the community no confidence that those appointed to look after our rivers are acting in the public interest,” Dr Sinclair said.
“The interim report is a good start, but the Matthews inquiry is limited in what it can look at. It cannot investigate the role of state ministers in allowing favourable water rules that allegedly help some irrigators pump water meant for the environment. Nor can it investigate any failings of the Federal Government, Water Minister Barnaby Joyce or the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
“The Turnbull Government’s response so far is typified by Mr Joyce’s conspiratorial ravings at a Shepparton pub shortly after the allegations of water theft on the Barwon-Darling were first aired. These finding show just how irresponsible Mr Joyce’s response was and brings into serious question his fitness for the water portfolio.
“For the sake of a healthy and thriving Murray-Darling, and all the communities that depend on it, nothing short of a full national judicial investigation must now be called.”