The ACCC Water Market Inquiry Interim report makes it clear, over 542 pages, the current water market in the Murray Darling Basin is not working for irrigated agriculture or our communities.
The report justifies and vindicates what irrigators have been saying for many years.
Concerns highlighted in the report are not new to those of us in regional Victoria, issues such as:
- the conflict of interest for unregulated water brokers,
- scant rules to guard against behaviour that manipulates water prices,
- well-resourced corporate entities are gaining unfair advantage over family farms, by manipulating the complexity of the water trading market,
- different regimes within basin states makes it very difficult for irrigators to ensure the market works for them, and
- the detrimental impact the expansion of the almond industry’s had on delivery of existing entitlements.
Basin communities’ lack of trust in the water market really highlights the fact we need a system that works for irrigated agriculture and is fair for all.
Engagement from irrigators and water communities is now vital.
While it is disappointing the report makes no interim recommendations the ACCC provides options for reform which need to be examined in full.
Irrigated agriculture must provide feedback to make sure the final outcome is one that works for irrigators and their communities.
Crucially, our basin communities need state governments to commit to implementing final recommendations the ACCC puts forward once this inquiry is complete.
The greatest concern is a failure to implement recommendations which assist irrigators and water users, make the market fairer and more transparent and better regulated to benefit irrigated agriculture.