Explaining the Water Accountability and Transparency Bill

Last week I spoke in Parliament on the Government’s Constitution Amendment (Water Accountability and Transparency) Bill 2020. This bill will require all 135 Members of the NSW Parliament to declare what type of water license they own and if they trade water. It will also begin the process of reforming the public register, whilst protecting the privacy of mum and dad farmers. You can hear my full contribution to the debate at https://youtu.be/cQmTi9HD-tg

There has been some misinformation circulated by certain people that my Nationals colleagues and I voted against this bill. It’s ridiculous to suggest the Nationals voted against a Government bill introduced by a Nationals Minister, Melinda Pavey. But more importantly, it’s blatantly untrue. The truth is that the bill, and Minister Pavey’s amendment, were agreed to without the need for a vote.

I voted against two amendments to the bill moved by members of the opposition and the crossbench. One sought to force Members to declare water rights held within a trust – including family trusts. But this bill is designed to shine a light on water ownership and trading of Members of Parliament – not to make public the water assets of mum and dad farmers. The other amendment sought to specifically include spouses in the legislation, and to make it retrospective. Spouses are already included in any parliamentary disclosures, making this aspect of the amendment redundant. It is broadly accepted that laws should not be able to be applied retrospectively, and this would have set a dangerous precedent.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is right now carrying out an inquiry into the nature of water registers, what information is held and not held and whether or not that is suitably transparent. The ACCC has been asked to recommend options that might lead to enhancements of the markets for tradeable water rights, “including options to enhance their operations, transparency, regulation, competitiveness and efficiency”. The Minister herself said last week that when the ACCC completes its review, we “should expect changes to be incorporated that we will include in our amendments to the platform of the bill”.

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The return of adult and kids’ community sport is drawing ever closer – and that’s not the only thing sport lovers in the Dubbo Electorate have had to smile about! Last week I was delighted to announce more recipients of Local Sport Grant funding, including:

  • $13,000 to the Dubbo Dirt Bike Club for sun protection shelters at Morris Park;
  • $7440 to the Dubbo Kart Club for safety upgrades at the Lincoln Country Raceway;
  • $5000 for Mudgee Sporting Clays to install air-conditioning in their clubhouse;
  • $5000 for Narromine Netball Club to subsidise player registration, and;
  • $5000 for Trangie Magpies to subsidise player registration and purchase uniforms.

Our communities have endured drought and now COVID-19, so I hope these announcements have helped lift people’s spirits!

Until next week,

Dugald

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