Drum expects socio-economic impact panel will be “dragged” to Goulburn Valley

By Country News

Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum expects the independent panel looking into the socio-economic impacts of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in regional communities will be ‘‘dragged’’ to the Goulburn Valley.

Although a schedule is yet to be finalised, Mr Drum wants the Goulburn Valley to be on the list of regions visited by the panel.

He believes Shepparton’s David McKenzie will play a big part in ensuring the panel understands how local communities within the electorate have been affected.

Mr Drum said Mr McKenzie was ‘‘well connected across all major political parties’’.

The panel was formed last month and joining Mr McKenzie on the panel was Deniliquin’s Bruce Simpson.

Mr Drum weighed in on the socio-economic independent panel saying the work was ‘‘absolutely critical’’.

He said the panel must avoid any sort of bias similar to previous inquiries into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and other socio-economic tests.

‘‘What’s more important, the work they come up with has total credibility.

‘‘The water debate has been littered with a whole raft of inquiries, royal commissions (South Australia) and a socio-economic impact statement that was funded by the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District leadership group.

‘‘Whenever these inquiries or impact statements are done with an express one-sided opinion, such as the South Australian Royal Commission, the remainder of the basin doesn’t show any respect and it won’t offer the credibility it might deserve.

‘‘They can see where this is totally biased and the interest group behind this is looking for a particular answer so everybody else says ‘we don’t care what that says’.

‘‘That’s effectively what happened from the South Australian Royal Commission. It went into its own royal commission knowing the outcomes it wanted to find.

‘‘And bugger-me-dead they found those outcomes so it’s data in versus data out.

‘‘With this independent panel, its purpose is to basically say: let’s get people from all sectors and regions, and make sure they have a total investigation.

‘‘A clear and transparent investigation that has total credibility so when the recommendations come out we can all look at that and get a better understanding.’’

Mr Drum said the findings from the panel would help determine parts of the review into the southern basin.

‘‘About three years ago there was a legislative review of the northern basin.

‘‘There is a legislative review of the southern basin which must take place next year so this socio-economic test and recommendations will feed into that.’’