In the past 10 months we have seen the appointment by the Federal Government of the Interim Inspector-General of Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources, a new Water Minister and a new chair of the MDBA.
So, what do Mick Keelty, Keith Pitt and Sir Angus Houston all have in common?
Answer: They have been appointed knowing zero/ zilch/ squat diddly about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, impacts of irrigation modernisation, the consequence of 30 per cent reduction in the irrigation consumptive pool, significant environmental degradation and basin plan proposed objectives that are unattainable due to the reality of climate change.
This is an insult to regional communities who are being so heavily impacted by the basin plan.
It is absolutely crucial that people placed in these positions at this critical time of basin plan implementation must have a solid understanding and knowledge of water issues and all their complexities.
Currently, we have Minister Pitt who clearly does not understand in any depth the many basin plan problems and has held the long-awaited Sefton Report (Independent Assessment of Social and Economic Conditions in the Basin) on his desk for four months.
Sir Angus Houston, as the symbolic head and spokesperson of the MDBA and who effectively is now the leader of the implementation of the basin plan, should be able to provide insight into complex water issues of which there are many, and work with basin states and communities.
After just one week in the job and by his admission “a couple of days of briefings”, he is already declaring to media that “the plan is a very good one” and “we have to stick with the plan because it’s legislation.”
Mick Keelty, ex-Australian Federal Police chief, appointed as the ‘tough cop’ no doubt to smooth-talk basin plan protesters and attempt to keep them in order. Again his inquiries have shown little understanding of the reality of irrigators’ supply shortfall.
Murray-Darling Basin communities have a growing sense of anger, hopelessness and a lack of confidence in their future, while basin plan idealised theories and assumptions embedded in legislation continue to prove impossible to achieve.
There is no logic or common sense behind these appointments, except that it gives the Federal Government’s agency MDBA total control in informing these ‘green’ appointees, thus monopolising the direction and implementation of the basin plan by providing all information from the MDBA perspective, whilst keeping regional communities’ grievances at arm’s length.