Nats leader rejects new water inquiry call

April 28, 2019

Nationals leader Michael McCormack has dismissed fresh calls for a federal royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan from a former Howard government minister.

South Australian Liberal and ex-cabinet minister Amanda Vanstone echoed Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi's call for a major federal inquiry into Australia's water systems with a focus on the basin.

The Sunday Mail reports, the deputy prime minister said southern NSW irrigators were watching water flow past their farms to fulfil environmental outcomes in SA.

"You're never going to get 100 per cent agreement on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan," Mr McCormack told AAP on Saturday.

He said the basin plan was an environmental document, but farming communities needed to be protected to help them produce world-leading food and fibre.

"We need to make sure that we don't cruel our farmers because even Greenies like to eat," he said.

"Even those people who have got no understanding of the drought, the impacts of the drought or the fact that our farmers are doing it tough."

Mr McCormack said while blame was being thrown at NSW farmers, including the cotton industry, making wholesale changes to the plan would be a mistake.

"To put that back into the parliament would be to open it up to (Greens MP) Adam Bandt and the Greenie cronies to want even more water taken out of the system," he said.

Ms Vanstone told The Advertiser she would be happy to see a federal royal commission, and that it was needed to get the water system for Australia right.

"When you start calling for a royal commission I think you're intimating that there is something wrong," she told the paper's podcast.

Senator Bernardi had been on record as early as September 2017 with concerns about water theft in the Northern Basin.

And in June last year, when it was clear the federal government was hampering the SA Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin, Senator Bernardi urged Water Minister David Littleproud to expose those who have stolen water in the Northern Basin and to encourage a transparent and open investigation into the whole Basin Plan.

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