Federal Water Minister David Littleproud has called for the Murray-Darling Basin interim inspector-general position to be made a permanent role, following a rally against the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Canberra last week.
Former Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty is the interim inspector-general, with powers to ensure compliance in the basin.
“Having spoken to a number of groups within the southern basin, particularly in a recent meeting down in Paringa where we met with several farmers and irrigators, where they were able to define the problems, it became clear to me that the problems are not simply the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but it also is some of the underlying policies,” Mr Keelty said.
“As the minister and others have said before, governments can't make rain and can't make water, but they can make policies, and one of the things that I will be doing over the course of the next four months, until March 31, is conducting an inquiry into the impact of those policies on water availability.”
For the interim position to be made permanent, all states need to formally approve and Mr Littleproud has requested their timely agreement.
“We're going to take the politics out of this,” Mr Littleproud said.
“We're going to continue to lead, we're going to be transparent and rebuild the trust that has been lost in some parts.”
Speak Up deputy chair Lachlan Marshall had discussions with National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson preceding the rally.
“We came away with an agreement that NFF would work with us to ensure appropriate steps were taken to appoint Mick Keelty as the basin plan inspector-general,” Mr Marshall said.
Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said she supported the role of inspector-general but feared changes would negatively impact Victoria.
“I support ensuring the best use of all available water but I won’t stand by and let water sharing rules be changed to the detriment of Victorian communities,” Ms Neville said.