ACCC want to eliminate water trade rumours

By Rodney Woods

Eliminating rumour and innuendo about trades in the water market is the aim of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's Murray-Darling Basin water markets inquiry, according to competition watchdog deputy chair Mick Keogh.

Mr Keogh, who was speaking at the Murray-Darling Association national conference, explained what was on the commission's to-do list between now and February 26 next year, when the final report is due.

“We are involved in completion of the data aggregation, so our aim is to put together a single source of truth in relation to trades that have occurred in the market since 2012,” he said.

“In that way we can look in detail of the behaviour of major traders and the activities of intermediaries, including brokers and irrigation infrastructure organisations, and rather than have a lot of rumour and innuendo about what is actually happening in the market,” he said.

“We hope to be able to have an evidence-based assessment on how those particular individuals have been behaving in the market and what, if any, change is needed.”

Mr Keogh said more work was also being done on the recommended reforms set out in the interim report.

“We're obtaining feedback from stakeholders, there is also quite a deal of legal advice being obtained in relation to some of the governance issues — because of course that is quite a complex area and includes consideration of things like the constitution, and we are engaged with all levels of government and agencies in relation to those reforms and those discussions are occurring on a very regular basis.”

As part of his presentation, Mr Keogh also went through the findings in the interim report, including that the lack of regulation of the water markets has led to conflicts of interest and left water trading markets open to price manipulation.

The multi-state governance of the river system is causing uncertainty and confusion around management and more transparency around trading is needed, according to the interim report.

Submissions to the interim report close on October 30.

For more information on the report or to make a submission, visit: accc.gov.au/focus-areas/inquiries-ongoing/murray-darling-basin-water-markets-inquiry/interim-report