Water bill back

By Olivia Duffey

Member for Murray Helen Dalton is not giving up on her Water Register Bill, which was avoided for so long the time to debate it had lapsed.  

The Bill would force politicians to declare their water ownership and publish information on the water holdings of corporations. It would also change the NSW Water Register so people can search for water owners by name.

The NSW Government first objected to Mrs Dalton introducing it, reporting her to the parliamentary ethics committee before stalling the Bill for several weeks to delay a vote on it. Coronavirus restrictions meant NSW Parliament was cancelled until September, and the Bill expired and was thrown out without it being voted on. 

But on May 12, Mrs Dalton’s colleague Mark Banasiak introduced a new version of the Bill to the Upper House when parliament resumed for a special one-off sitting. 

Mrs Dalton made two key amendments to this Bill - for state MPs the Bill will be retrospective, so it captures any water they’ve owned in the past five years and will also require state MPs to disclose any water rights of their spouses.

She is now working on re-introducing the Bill in the Lower House as soon as sittings resume to give it the best possible chance of getting up.

‘‘It was really heartening to see my colleague Mark Banasiak introduce my Bill to the Upper House last week,’’ she said.

‘‘Parliament was originally suspended until September, so I thought we would have to wait much longer to re-introduce the Bill.

‘‘Parliament is now resuming full-time in June, so I’ll introduce the same Bill in the Lower House then.’’

Mrs Dalton reported she has planned a ‘‘double barrel attack in both houses of parliament to get this across the line’’.

‘‘I was so frustrated when the Nationals stalled my Bill and then threw it out earlier this year. But I won’t ever give up. I’m going to keep pushing until this becomes law,’’ she said.

‘‘This Bill is vital. While water ownership is kept secret, we’ll continue to see traders and foreign corporations make millions from trading our water while our farmers get wiped out.

‘‘It was also recently reported that Australian water is being used for money laundering and being bought by Chinese state owned corporations.

‘‘Moreover, politicians are making decisions on water that impact on the price, supply and profitability of water. So if they own water themselves, the public have a right to know.’’