Government back-flip on water Royal Commission

By Country News

Despite going to the High Court to block the request, the Federal Government and Murray-Darling Basin Authority have announced they will co-operate with the South Australian Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud confirmed last Thursday the government had written to SA Royal Commissioner Bret Walker SC to advise that it will make written submissions and provide additional information to the royal commission.

He said he expected the documents to be provided to the commission by October 10.

A number of high ranking staff at the authority, including chief executive Phillip Glyde, were issued with summonses by the royal commission in June, seeking to compel them to provide evidence at a series of public hearings.

The summonses also required the authority to produce a number of specified documents to the royal commission.

In a document filed with the High Court, lawyers for the authority and Federal Government argued the South Australian royal commission had no authority to compel witnesses, claiming doing so was beyond the commission’s powers.

They argued the commission could not compel public servants, former public servants of the Commonwealth or those who were a resident of a state other than South Australia to appear before the royal commission.

The High Court proceedings were dropped by the royal commission late last month.

Mr Walker told the Federal Government and MDBA in a letter on September 7 that current evidence ‘‘may reach conclusions adverse to and critical of them’’ and, if the decision was made not to appear, he would consider it as a demonstration that the parties did not wish to be heard.

The royal commission has already attracted almost 150 submissions and undertaken several hearings where the research, science and foundations of the basin plan have been brought into question by former MDBA employees and scientists.