The National Farmers’ Federation has welcomed an announcement by the Treasurer Scott Morrison of the Terms of Reference for the Productivity Commission’s 2017 Inquiry into the reform of Australia’s water resources sector.
The Inquiry is to assess the progress by the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments in achieving the objectives and outcomes of the National Water Initiative (NWI), which was struck in 2004.
NFF Vice President and Water Taskforce Chair Les Gordon said the inquiry was an opportunity to take stock of what has been achieved and what more could be done.
“Water is our farmers’ most precious resource – its careful management is vital to the continued sustainability and prosperity of our agriculture sector.”
“The terms of reference released yesterday provide the chance to put an independent lens over the good and the bad results of water reform and to identify where more work is needed,” Mr Gordon said.
Mr Gordon said the NWI had been the enduring policy framework for water reform in Australia and the NFF has always advocated for an independent role—without an agenda and without vested interests—to oversee the reform process.
“The NFF valued the work of the National Water Commission in fulfilling this role from 2004 until 2014.
“When the Government sought to scrap the NWC and all its functions – as a cost saving measure – we fought hard to ensure that this crucial role of independent oversight was retained,” Mr Gordon said.
Due to NFF’s advocacy efforts in 2014, the Water Act not only requires the Productivity Commission to conduct this Inquiry, but ensures that they do so with specialist expertise, and in close consultation with stakeholders through the formation of a stakeholder working group.
The announcement of the Terms of Reference follows the appointment late last year of Commissioner Professor Jane Doolan and Assistant Commissioner Mr John Madden as Commissioners with specialist expertise in the water sector.
NFF looks forward to the announcement of the stakeholder working group and contributing to the Productivity Commission’s consultation processes which will commence formally with the release of the Issues Paper for the Inquiry in March.