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NFF supports water buyback audit

23 April 2019

The National Farmers' Federation supports a request today by the Federal Agriculture & Water Resources Minister, David Littleproud for the Auditor General to investigate all Murray Darling Basin water buybacks carried out under successive governments since 2008.

NFF Chief Executive Tony Mahar said in fact, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) had already planned to investigate the issue.

"Minister Littleproud's request will rightly serve to refine the scope of the investigation and to expedite the process, which is welcomed."

Mr Mahar said the ANAO was the appropriate body to undertake the work given it was a statutory, independent body required to be systematic and transparent in its findings.

"We will always support steps to increase transparency and good governance, and if and when that governance is doubted, we support a review by an appropriate authority."

Mr Mahar said the Productivity Commission's five-year assessment of the implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan had also flagged the need for an audit.

"Yet again recommendations from the Productivity Commission's Report into the Implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan have proven to be informative, for example Recommendation 3.2 outlined below."

"The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources should ensure that water recovery aligns with environmental requirements and its processes for doing so are transparent.

"To support accountability, it should commit to publishing all advice provided by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and the Murray Darling Basin Authority (including advice on strategic purchases) once transactions are complete in a Sustainable Diversion Limit resource unit."

(See pages 36 and 103 of the Report here www.pc.gov.au/inquiries/completed/basin-plan/report/basin-plan.pdf )

Mr Mahar said it was imperative that close attention was paid to the Productivity Commission's detailed report and that its recommendations informed future inquiries of, and adjustments to, the Plan's delivery platforms.

"The Plan was always intended to be dynamic. The review mechanisms are embedded in the enabling legislation, including the Productivity Commission's five yearly report requirement.

"Farmers continue to look for the fair and just implementation of the Plan which ensures economic, socio economic (including regional community resilience) and environmental impacts are paramount.

"This is much more important than shrill debate during an election campaign. A medium and long term view is needed," Mr Mahar said.

Media Enquiries: Laureta Wallace
P 0408 448 250
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