Members Statement – Last Thursday the inspector-general of Murray-Darling Basin water resources, Mick Keelty, visited Shepparton to conduct one of his many town hall meetings. Approximately 200 people, predominantly farmers, attended and were largely impressed by his sincerity and frankness. Mr Keelty’s current inquiry, due by 31 March, is looking into the Murray-Darling Basin agreement to see if more water can be found for farmers. It arises from a direction by the then federal Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud.
Many will recall the convoy to Canberra on 2 December 2019 when thousands of farmers in their trucks descended upon the federal Parliament to demand better outcomes and more availability of water in the southern Murray-Darling Basin. The interim inspector-general is a non-statutory role for a period of 12 months from 1 October 2019 until a statutory appointment is made, presumably later this year. His role is to help deliver transparency, accountability and community confidence. So many local farmers are hoping that he will be able to find water that might then be made available to them. He made no promises about that.
For me, while I make no criticism of Mr Keelty himself—people felt he was listening to them—I take the view that after some 40 reviews, audits, reports and a royal commission, recommendations of which have been largely ignored, this is just another ploy by the federal government to make rural communities feel like they are being listened to when in fact it has no intention of doing anything other than delivering the Murray-Darling Basin plan in full and on time.