Murray Darling ‘top cop’ blind to Basin’s problems

As Murray Darling Basin Water Ministers meet today to discuss the future of the Basin management, new research by the Australia Institute shows that the Murray-Darling Basin’s new Inspector General, former AFP Commissioner Mick Keelty, has ignored key issues in his first annual report on the Northern Basin.

The ministerial council is likely to work on the details of the Inspector General role, expanding from the original role, despite the flaws in the initial report.

“The Murray-Darling Basin’s ‘top cop’ fails to even discuss many of the most publicised examples of maladministration and malfeasance that have occurred during the implementation of the Basin Plan,”said Rod Campbell, Research Director at the Australia Institute.

“The report failed to mention, let alone investigate, some of the most egregious claims of wrong doing.”

Claims of wrong-doing which should have been investigated by the Inspector General for the Murray-Darling Basin in the last year include:

  • Alleged rorting of the Commonwealth’s $4 billion water efficiency program. 
  • Allegations that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority drained Menindee Lakes outside its operating rules. 
  • Growth in floodplain harvesting and the process to issue floodplain harvesting licences. 
  • Questionable water purchases and their links to politicians.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the Interim Inspector General has not even tried to tackle the big problems many suspect are occurring in the Basin,” said Mr Campbell.

“This report does nothing to restore trust or confidence in the Governments and water Agencies implementation of the Basin Plan.

“Instead, the glaring omissions should further erode any remaining credibility the Government and Water Agencies have left.

“For example, rather than dealing with the management failures that contributed to the Menindee fish kills, Mr Keelty’s report focuses on the social media failures that made water agencies and governments look bad.

“This report is also a great disservice to the irrigation industry and the agricultural sector more broadly, because it hasn’t dealt with all of the elephants in the room.”

 The report, The Basin Files: The maladministration of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan: volume 2 by Maryanne Slattery, Agatha Court and Rod Campbell, is available here.

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Anna Chang Communications Director

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anna@australiainstitute.org.au