ACCC goes bush to seek views on water trade

ACCC water trade inquiry calls for farmer, trader submissions

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Irrigators and other market participants are being urged to share their views on how water markets work in the Murray Darling Basin

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is planning a roadshow of public forums seeking irrigators views on water trading and the water marketplace.

The ACCC wants irrigators, other market participants and farm organisations to share their views on how water markets work, or could work better, in the Murray Darling Basin.

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

The water market inquiry follows federal Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, deciding in August the competition watchdog would examine markets for tradable water rights in the Basin.

The ACCC was asked to recommend options to enhance markets for tradeable water rights, including options to enhance their operations, transparency, regulation, competitiveness and efficiency.

We understand how important the effective operation of these markets is for the economic health of communities across the Basin - Mick Keogh, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

The ACCC has subsequently just released an issues paper outlining key areas it will consider in its water market inquiry.

It has invited farmers, agribusinesses, brokers and other market participants to submit their thoughts on the issues or attend a series of public forums in November to be held at 10 centres across the Basin.

"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," said ACCC deputy chairman Mick Keogh.

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

The forums will give individuals opportunities to provide information and make submissions in person.

"This inquiry follows a period of significant change in water markets and in irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin," Mr Keogh said.

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

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What issues will be examined?

The inquiry's focus will include:

- 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, and

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

Mr Keogh said the ACCC team wanted 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.

Water markets under scrutiny include various separate state-based markets, as well as the southern connected Murray Darling Basin market where trade occurs across water systems in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

The ACCC must give the Treasurer an interim report on the inquiry by May 31 and complete the inquiry and provide a report by November 30 next year.

Written submissions to the inquiry will generally be made public on the ACCC website as part of the public process, however confidential information would be respected by the commission.

Details about how the inquiry would deal with confidential information was available in the issues paper.

Public forums

The ACCC's public forums begin in northern Victoria on November 7 and conclude in South Australia at the end of the month.

  • Mildura - 11.30am, Thursday 7 November, Benetook Room, Alfred Deakin Centre, 190 Deakin Avenue, Mildura, VIC
  • Renmark - 10am, Friday 8 November, Renmark Club, 160 Murray Avenue, Renmark, SA
  • Griffith - 2pm, Monday 11 November, Griffith Exies Club, 6/12 Jondaryan Avenue, Griffith, NSW
  • Deniliquin - 10am, Tuesday 12 November, Mountbatten Room, Returned Services League Club, 72 End Street, Deniliquin, NSW
  • Kerang - 6pm, Tuesday 12 November, Kerang Senior Citizens Community Meeting Room, 169 Boundary Street, Kerang, VIC
  • Shepparton - 12pm, Wednesday 13 November, Shepparton Golf Club, 15 Golf Drive, Shepparton, VIC
  • Dubbo - 10am, Monday 18 November, Returned Services League Club, Corner of Brisbane Street & Wingewarra Street, Dubbo, NSW
  • St George - 11 am, Wednesday 20 November, St George Cultural Centre, 112 Victoria Street, St George, QLD
  • Narrabri - 11am, Thursday 21 November, The Crossing Theatre, 117 Tibbereena Street, Narrabri, NSW
  • Murray Bridge - 12pm, Friday 29 November, Murray Bridge Golf Club, 40 Ritter Street, Murray Bridge, SA.

Interested parties can register for one of the ACCC's public forums at the ACCC website.

Submissions in response to the issues paper can be made via the ACCC Consultation Hub or emailed to waterinquiry@accc.gov.au. Submissions close on 29 November 2019.

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