Former Liberal Cabinet minister Amanda Vanstone has echoed Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi’s call for a federal royal commission into Australia’s water system to examine issues including unchecked pumping by NSW irrigators.
Ms Vanstone has told The Advertiser, a national royal commission should focus on the Murray-Darling Basin and the eastern seaboard.
The Federal Government has resisted calls for a national royal commission into the Basin, which intensified after former water minister Barnaby Joyce’s defence last week of a $79 million water buyback in 2017.
Ms Vanstone, a former South Australian senator and minister in John Howard’s Cabinet, conceded the buyback amount seemed “an extraordinary amount of money”.
“What I would be happy to see is a national royal commission into the water system in Australia completely,” Ms Vanstone said. “It might be a lot of money in the buyback we’re talking about but it’s nothing compared to getting the water system for Australia right. In Victoria, I’m told by agricultural people that they’ll come and check your pumps and your meters and stuff quite regularly.
“It doesn’t happen in NSW. What the hell is going on when it’s not the same situation in each state, when you buy an amount of water that you’re allowed to use but nobody checks whether you take more? I mean, give me a break.
“I just think a national inquiry into the whole water system would be a good thing.”
A state royal commission, released in January, but hampered by a federally-directed lack of cooperation from the Murray Darling Basin Authority found the Basin Plan had been derailed by maladministration.
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