ACCC water inquiry kicks off but you won't find "fairness" in the terms of reference

07 November 2019

With water prices skyrocketing under the Morrison Government’s watch, it’s no wonder there are a lot of people expected at today’s water inquiry public forum in Mildura.
The ACCC’s water inquiry kicks off in Mildura today with reports that 200 or more farmers and others are likely to attend. 
With water prices rising from a long-term average of $135 per megalitre to nearly $1000, rural communities are under pressure, and the Morrison government has faced calls to take action.
One of the Government’s own ministers has said the current market-design does not pass the “pub test”.
Water prices are compounding the anxiety and suffering in drought-ravaged communities.
But despite the distress in rural communities, the Morrison Government has explicitly excluded “the social and economic impact of water trading on communities” from the ACCC’s inquiry.
And the words “fair” and “fairness” don’t appear in the Terms of Reference the Morrison Government set for the inquiry.
The Government argues that there is no need for those issues to be included in the market-design review, because they are being considered in a separate independent panel assessment. 
But the ACCC’s review and the independent panel assessment already overlap, with the latter looking at water markets and prices.
The buck stops with the Morrison Government. It must ensure that Australia’s water is used well and effectively in the public interest, for current and future generations of Australians.