ACCC seeks feedback on water markets

By Geoff Adams

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is calling on irrigators and other water market participants to share their views on the operation of water markets in the Murray-Darling Basin.

An issues paper released on Friday outlines the key issues the ACCC will consider in its Murray-Darling Basin water markets inquiry.

In addition, the ACCC has announced a series of public forums to be held across the basin during November.

The forums will provide an opportunity to provide information and make submissions to the ACCC inquiry in person.

The ACCC will also be using its compulsory information gathering powers to obtain a detailed picture of trading activity in water markets since 2012.

“This inquiry follows a period of significant change in water markets and in irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin,” ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said.

“It also comes at a time of drought, water shortages and significant increases in water prices.

“We understand how important the effective operation of these markets is for the economic health of communities across the basin, and for the Australian economy more broadly.

“We are also aware there are a range of concerns about these markets.”

The ACCC’s inquiry will focus on:

¦ The factors driving changes in water markets and water prices.

¦ How market participants (including irrigators, investors, water brokers, water exchanges, water registries and others) use market information, and whether water markets are sufficiently transparent.

¦ How market regulation, regulatory agencies and policy differences between states and trading zones have affected water markets.

¦ How the practices and behaviours of different market participants and interested parties impact water markets.

¦ The extent to which the objectives of water markets have been achieved, and how overall market competition and efficiency have changed over time.

“These forums will be a chance for ACCC commissioners and staff to hear directly from irrigators and other water market participants,” Mr Keogh said.

“We want to hear from a broad range of people and organisations with an interest in the use and trade of water in the Murray-Darling Basin.”

The public forums will take place at:

¦ Deniliquin: 10am on Tuesday, November 12 in the Mountbatten Room, RSL Club, 72 End St.

¦ Kerang: 6pm on Tuesday, November 12 in the Kerang Senior Citizens Community Meeting Room, 169 Boundary St.

¦ Shepparton: Noon on Wednesday, November 13 at the Shepparton Golf Club, 15 Golf Dve.

Interested parties can register for one of the ACCC’s public forums at: https://consultation.accc.gov.au/agriculture/murray-darling-basin-inquiry-forums-registration/

The issues paper is available at: www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/inquiries-ongoing/murray-darling-basin-water-markets-inquiry/issues-paper

Submissions in response to the issues paper close on November 29 and can be made via the ACCC Consultation Hub at: https://consultation.accc.gov.au/agriculture/murray-darling-basin-inquiry-issues-paper/ or emailed to: waterinquiry@accc.gov.au

The inquiry is a public process and written submissions will generally be made available on the ACCC website. Further details about how the inquiry will deal with confidential information are available at: www.accc.gov.au/focus-areas/inquiries-ongoing/murray-darling-basin-water-markets-inquiry/issues-paper