Bills blocked

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

A public register of water ownership in NSW is no closer to being established with two separate bills on the issue being blocked by parliament last week.

NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey’s bill — the NSW Nationals Water Transparency and Accountability Bill — was voted down in the Upper House Tuesday night last week.

It failed to get support from Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party, Greens and Labor Party members.

Member for Murray Helen Dalton’s own version of the water bill — the Water Management Amendment (Transparency of Water Rights) Bill 2020 — passed the Upper House, but was voted down in the Lower House on Thursday.

Mrs Dalton has since said she would be willing to compromise with the NSW Government on how to proceed and ‘‘end water secrecy’’.

‘‘We urgently need a transparent water register,’’ Mrs Dalton said 

‘‘I’d be more than happy to sit down with the New South Wales Water Minister and work out what sort of water register they’d be willing to accept.’’

Mrs Dalton says her bill would force politicians to declare their water interest, and create an online public register of all individuals and corporations who hold state water entitlements.

While it was supported by Labor, The Greens, One Nation, SFF and the independents in the Upper House, all Liberals and Nationals in both houses voted against it.

‘‘The Nationals say a public water register will hurt small ‘mum and dad’ farmers, by exposing them to attacks by animal rights activists,’’ Mrs Dalton 

‘‘I don’t agree. But if the Nats truly believe this, why not amend my bill rather than just kill it?

‘‘We could at least have a water register for all those who own more than 5000 megalitres of water.

‘‘We need transparency over big corporates buying water, manipulating prices and making a profit.

‘‘Because the Nationals killed this bill, it means Cayman Island companies and foreign governments can continue to buy our water, whilst keeping their identity secret.

‘‘Surely nobody wants this to continue. I’m happy for the New South Wales Government to take elements of my bill and use them to create a genuine public water register. I’d support them.’’

Similarly, Mrs Pavey said the voting down of the Coalition’s bill was a ‘‘kick in the guts for regional communities’’.

She also highlighted that the recently released ACCC report found that publishing identifying details will result in significant negative consequences. 

‘‘Water transparency is my number one priority, it is vital for our regional communities, and this was an opportunity for us all to make improvements in water transparency and accountability for the greater good of regional New South Wales,’’ Mrs Pavey said.

‘‘The Shooters, Greens and Labor Party in the Upper House voted down a government framework that would create greater transparency in water trading and accountability for Parliamentarians in relation to water ownership.

‘‘Our bill outlined improvements to water transparency not at the expense of the privacy of mum and dad farmers. Labor, the Shooters and the Greens are willing to create ‘Aussie Farms 2.0’ by publishing individual addresses online, and create water speculation where the market can be manipulated.’’