Head of water market inquiry confirms Coalition failure on drought

06 November 2019

With Joel Fitzgibbon

In an interview on ABC Radio National on Wednesday morning, ACCC Deputy Chair and head of the Murray Darling Basin water markets inquiry Mick Keogh confirmed what farming communities have known for some time: that the Coalition Government has done nothing to prepare farming communities for drought since 2013.
We are in the midst of the most extreme drought on record, towns are running out of water and the Government has failed to take any meaningful action over the last six years.
Mr Keogh is leading the ACCC inquiry into water markets, which was announced only after alarming reports revealed that farmers and regional communities are being forced to compete with speculators for much-needed water in the most extreme drought on record.
Mr Keogh’s response to questions about the current drought support is a damning indictment on this Liberal National Government.
HAMISH MCDONALD: Eight years ago, you chaired a federal government review of drought support measures, what’s your view of the current drought support system?
MICK KEOGH:  Well in that inquiry we were very strongly in favour of the farm household support system which basically makes sure that farmers that have got no income have food on the table without having to sell up.  I think that’s been quite an important factor in this drought, and that’s been good.
We did also recommend a range of other measures to increase preparedness, and I think unfortunately one of the facets of political cycles in Australia is that the only time drought policy is talked about is in extreme drought and unfortunately since 2013 there haven’t been any other serious measures to prepare better for the next drought and that’s where we are now.
This damning indictment by the competition regulator comes after Scott Morrison was recently caught out telling mistruths to drought-ravaged regional communities on dam funding contributions in NSW and it was exposed that his $7 billion drought spending package was complete spin.
This tired third term Coalition Government has also failed to build a single dam since 2013, despite saying they would build 100 dams.
The Government has had a Drought Summit, a Drought Coordinator, a Drought Envoy and a Drought Taskforce, but our farmers and rural communities are still waiting for a comprehensive and effective national drought policy.
The Morrison Government’s loose-with-the-truth, piecemeal and chaotic approach to drought policy is being exacerbated by Liberal/National infighting and Australians are paying the price.