GOVERNMENT MUST EXPAND WATER THEFT INQUIRY TO INCLUDE ITS OWN MINISTERS

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The Labor Opposition is demanding the Berejiklian Government expands the terms of reference of the NSW inquiry into alleged water theft in the Murray Darling Basin to, among other things, include its own ministers. 

It comes as Premier Gladys Berejiklian refuses to shed any light on the actions of her government in the alleged theft of water.

In NSW Parliament today, NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley put more pressure on the Premier to enable Ken Matthews, who is heading the NSW investigation into the theft allegations, to investigate the conduct and decisions of former Nationals Water Ministers Katrina Hodgkinson and Kevin Humphries, as well as that of the current Minister, Niall Blair.

Labor asked the Premier to allow Mr Matthews to specifically examine whether Mr Humphries gave a room full of irrigators permission to pump water from the Barwon during a water embargo, when he was Water Minister.

Also during Question Time today, Ms Berejiklian refused to guarantee that any public servant, or former public servant, who provides information to the Matthews investigation, will be protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act.

NSW Labor is also insisting the Premier guarantees that Mr Matthews will be empowered to investigate all reports of water theft - not just the four instances listed in the Terms of Reference.

Furthermore, the terms of reference must be amended to allow Mr Matthews to examine the impact that the Government’s changed water rules had on the Murray Darling Basin Plan – changes which the former head of NSW Farmers described as “bloody disgusting”.

Quotes attributable to NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“The Nationals have proven they can’t be trusted to handle the state’s water and Ken Matthews must be allowed to investigate them.

“This is about restoring the integrity of the water system in Far West NSW; it’s important that we get this investigation right.

“We need to ensure the irrigators doing the right thing downstream get their fair share and families get access to clean drinking water.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for Water Chris Minns

“The people who depend upon the fair distribution of water from the Murray Darling rivers deserve answers about the Liberal-National Government’s actions.

All reports of water theft must be investigated by the Matthews investigation.

“And the Government’s changes to the water rules should not be ignored in the examination.

“The Premier must guarantee public service whistleblowers will be protected as the inquiry unfolds.”