Transparency, more consistent information and streamlined administration. All worthy goals for Murray Darling Basin water markets, but goals that, over two decades, have proved difficult, says National Irrigators’ Council (NIC) CEO, Steve Whan.

Steve Whan was commenting on the release of the interim report into water markets from the ACCC, which foreshadows recommendations on improving the administration of water markets and building confidence via better transparency and consistency. 

Steve Whan said “we knew that the ACCC was not embarking on an easy task, but would agree in principle with the overarching points from the interim report. The market has produced strong overall benefit for agriculture, but it has problems and there are negative impacts on some communities that need to be addressed.

“It is pleasing to see that the interim report mirrors many of the key positions put by NIC

“Greater consistency between the different exchanges, more transparency and considering an overarching regulator for the market and regulation for brokers – all worth doing, as long as they practically improve competition, improve ease of access to the market for irrigators, are effective and do not increase cost or administrative burden.

“Some of the specific comments in the interim report that are welcome include:

  • The need to ensure market operation reflects physical constraints;
  • The need to look at how conveyance losses are dealt with;
  • Needing to deal with delivery constraints and whether further unbundling is needed;
  • Further consideration of how different products are dealt with, including carry-over.

“There is much detail in the interim report, it will take a little time for industry to digest it and provide considered responses.  In that sense it is disappointing we have been given such as short time to respond to such complex issues.

“The interim report is a good start.  This final report could be a catalyst for positive reform in the operation of the market and provide a basis for ensuring that it continues to boost agricultural product, while also providing a fair competitive environment.

“There is, however, a note of caution.  Going from a draft, with much positive intent, to real reform, will take a lot more work and, following that, commitment from Basin Governments. Firstly, to careful consultation with market participants and then to action.

“We already have recommendations, from reports like the Productivity Commission’s five-year Basin Plan review, sitting on the shelf.  We need to see constructive elements of reports turn into action.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883

Friday 31 July 2020