Rebuilding trust and confidence key to Federal Labor’s water policy

By Rodney Woods

The trust and confidence of basin communities needs to be restored, according to Federal Shadow Water Minister Terri Butler.

Ms Butler was a guest speaker at the Murray-Darling Association's National Conference, which had been planned to be held in Shepparton before COVID-19 restrictions hit.

Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt's announcement on September 4 that there would be no buybacks to assist with water recovery and that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority would be relieved of its compliance duties was overdue but important to rebuild trust, according to Ms Butler.

“You and your communities deserve to be able to trust that water is being managed well within the Murray-Darling Basin and you deserve to be able to have confidence in the decisions that affect you, and for you to be respected,” she said.

“The commitment to a single point of truth is important and consistent with the recommendations made in past reports, but again the proof of the pudding will be in the tasting.

“Specifically, we will have to wait to see what co-operation the government can get from states.

“Without their willing involvement, it's difficult to see what information the new platform (to bring together water information from across governments announced by Mr Pitt) will provide that is additional to the information already available on the MDBA's website.

“Increasing transparency is an important aspect of fixing the erosion of trust.

“The broader question of loss of trust and confidence is an issue that is particularly worrying and it's an issue that has featured in multiple reports.

“It's very clear to me that we need serious measures to restore trust and confidence.

“None of this is news to the government, and one of the most important measures that can be taken by them is to establish strong compliance and assurance measures."

Ms Butler made it clear that bipartisanship on water issues was what basin communities were searching for.

“The multiple and different interests are not necessarily constrained by state borders or electoral boundaries, which is why it is very clear, despite all the potential for conflict and challenge, that co-operation is crucial,” she said.

“I think now, more than ever, the people of Australia want collaboration and bipartisanship and that is reflected in Labor's approach to the Murray-Darling Basin.

“We seek to maintain good, open communication with the minister (Keith Pitt).”