National Water Register would make market a 'level playing field'

National Water Register would make market a 'level playing field'

Politics
EVEN THE FIELD: Nuffield scholar Ben Haslett said a National Water Register would provide farmers market information, allowing them to make informed decisions..

EVEN THE FIELD: Nuffield scholar Ben Haslett said a National Water Register would provide farmers market information, allowing them to make informed decisions..

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"You might ask, 'who cares who owns what?'. It's market information. It gives me the opportunity to partake in the market on more even playing field."

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THE calls for a National Water Register are growing louder, with supporters of the proposal saying it would be a quick and efficient way to increase transparency in the water market.

Woolenook Fruits owner and Nuffield scholar Ben Haslett said the nation needed a water market, however it "should be for production and not just for speculative profiteering".

"I think we should have a national water ownership register," Mr Haslett said.

"You might ask, 'who cares who owns what?'. It's market information. It gives me the opportunity to partake in the market on more even playing field.

"If I know there's a large company in a catchment that's really a speculator investor, I know they're not going to be using that water to grow a product.

"And so I know if they own 10 per cent of the catchment, it's likely that 10 per cent of that will be tradable."

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One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts is among those calling for a National Water Register and said if the government had the political will to create one, it could do so relatively quickly.

"I want to know who owns the water," Senator Roberts said.

"The federal Department of Water Resources needs to immediately pull in information currently held by irrigation authorities into a national water register.

"This can be searched by location and address. The information provided by private foreign companies must also include beneficial owners."

Senator Roberts said the issue was a "high priority" and could be delivered in 12 months.

There was a previous agreement to development a national water market system, however despite an investment of $30 million the project stopped in 2012.

"The government slow-walked this during the MDBP development then stopped working on it because they don't want public disclosure of water entitlements," Senator Roberts said.

Each state government has their own water register, however they have been criticised for their limited public access. The data is owned by the states, so an agreement or a constitutional change would be needed to compel them to share information for a national register.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is currently conducting an inquiry into the Murray Darling Basin water market, with a specific focus on water trading. An interim report is due at the end of May, with a final report due by December.

Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt said he supported transparency and integrity in the water market, however would wait the outcome of the ACCC inquiry before considering market reforms.

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