THE Federal Coalition Government this week released terms of reference for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin water market.

The inquiry, which delivers on a Coalition Government election promise, will look at options to improve the transparency and efficiency of the water market.

It will also examine changes in water use, carryover water, trade between water valleys and systems and the effect of water speculators on the market.

Member for Mallee Dr Anne Webster said that the announcement of the terms of reference for the ACCC inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin is “a fantastic place to be at.”

“Consultations with the community can now begin in earnest, and it is my expectation that Sunraysia and surrounds will be able to engage in those community consultations which will be really important,” she said.

“The Basin water prices and the operation of the market itself has been of real concern and it has been raised with me many times.

“The terms of reference will be very comprehensive, and will include market trends, the changes in location of water use – from State to State or area to area – water carryover practices, which can impact water prices, the role of water brokers, water exchanges and investment funds, which people are really concerned about with big business buying up rights and speculating in the market.

“This will shine a light on all those practices, as well the availability of information about the water market, so that irrigators and farmers will be able to know what is taking place from one day to the other in the water market itself, and I am very pleased about this.” 

Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that water was the lifeblood of communities in the Murray-Darling Basin, adding that it was important the market operated in a transparent and effective manner.

“As with any market it is important to take a look at how it is performing and whether it is operating as intended, and to the benefit of communities who rely on the Basin,” he said.

Minister for Water Resources and Drought, David Littleproud, said the Government had listened to the concerns of farmers in delivering on this election commitment.

“I promised this thorough inquiry after hearing from farmers as I travelled up and down the Basin,” he said. “Farmers told me they had concerns around changes in water use, trade between valleys and the effect speculators have on the water market.

“It’s important to make sure the market is operating as intended – our regional communities depend on it.

“We need a transparent market in which farmers have timely access to accurate information. I invite farmers to participate in this inquiry.”

The Government has asked for an interim report to be delivered in early March 2020, with a final report by the end of 2020.

An outline of the terms of reference for the inquiry can be found via the Treasury website.