Water market among Australia's least regulated sectors

Water market among Australia's least regulated sectors

Water
Water markets in the Murray Darling Basin are among the least regulated in Australia according to ACCC commissioner Stephen Ridgeway.

Water markets in the Murray Darling Basin are among the least regulated in Australia according to ACCC commissioner Stephen Ridgeway.

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An experienced ACCC commissioner has said the water market rates among one of the least regulated and opaque sectors he has worked in.

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AN AUSTRALIAN Competition and Consumer Commission commissioner working on the authority's report into water markets in the Murray Darling Basin said the water industry was among the least regulated he has encountered in Australia.

Stephen Ridgeway, who has extensive experience in the business world, including roles in mining, telecommunications and energy, said the legal requirements found even in other areas of agriculture, such as real estate or livestock did not apply in water.

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"You have none of the checks and balances of industries such as real estate or even stock and station agents, there is no fiduciary duty requirement for agents to act in their clients' best interest unless stipulated in an individual contract, intermediaries can trade in their own right, there is very little in the way of regulation," Mr Ridgeway said.

He also said the market was notable for the paucity of information available.

He said the ACCC had not found any explicit examples of manipulation of the water market, but cautioned if there was wrong-doing it would be extremely hard to pick up due to the lack of information available.

"It is not a transparent market whatsoever," he said.

This was part of the reason Mr Ridgeway's colleague, ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said participants had been actively calling for a mandatory code of conduct.

"You don't see it very often when the brokers themselves are calling for a mandatory code of conduct, they have said the various voluntary measures just have not worked," Mr Keogh said.

He said more information on water markets and trades would make it easier to set the parameters for a code of conduct and increase irrigator confidence in the system.

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