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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 10248

Murray-Darling Basin

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (14:22): My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. In a letter enclosing the interim investigation into New South Wales water management, Ken Matthews stated:

… compliance and enforcement arrangements in NSW have been ineffectual and require significant and urgent improvement.

He stated that 'individual cases of alleged noncompliance have remained unresolved for far too long' and that 'a systemic fix is required'. Given Ken Matthews' findings and water theft allegations in at least two states, do you now agree we need an urgent judicial inquiry into the implementation of the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan?

Mr JOYCE (New EnglandDeputy Prime Minister, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:23): I thank the honourable member for her question and note that the Ken Matthews inquiry which she refers to, which has been diligently carried out, was actually instigated by the coalition in New South Wales. It was instigated by Niall Blair. What we had in that inquiry was three qualified ICAC investigators, people with experience in ICAC, and the information that they have brought forward is now available if further prosecutions need to occur. That goes on the back of Hanlon referring himself to ICAC, and I note there have been discussions that he certainly has questions to answer there. On top of that, of course, we had the independent inquiry by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority which is currently underway, and we also have an auditor's inquiry as well as a Senate inquiry. ICAC is well and truly capable of sending people to jail, as we've seen with a couple of members who were formerly in the New South Wales Labor Party, now residing at Her Majesty's pleasure in respective institutions around town. We never, ever condone water theft. We don't condone any form of theft, and we certainly don't condone water theft. In pursuit of this we will make sure that, if any of these allegations stack up, they will be pursued to the full extent of the law.

What I can say also, and it is important, is that at this point they remain allegations. I am also aware of other issues that have been brought forward with regard to defamation cases, so we have to be very careful that we differentiate between allegations and proof.