Pitt has report, now we wait

By James Bennett

Farmers and irrigators are hoping a report submitted on March 31 by Murray-Darling Basin Water Resources interim inspector-general Mick Keelty will provide better water transparency — but state Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed isn't hopeful.

The report was handed to Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt, who said it would be released for the public to view once read.

Ms Sheed said her dubious sentiment rose from at least 40 previous reports, inquiries and royal commissions that had failed to see much progress for farmers and irrigators.

She previously called for Mr Pitt not to delay releasing the report but she expected him to have "a good read of if" before it becomes available to the public.

Ms Sheed said hopes had waned that Mr Keelty's report would have much impact.

“There were people that were hopeful such as (Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman) Chris Brooks and others that when they agreed to this inquiry at the time of the convoy to Canberra in December, there would be water available to farmers, but that hope has lessened over months,” Ms Sheed said.

“All he (Mr Keelty) can do is recommend. I think he'll make a few around water transperancy.

“When he was in Shepparton last month, he did say he would be recommending for there to be a better online system where everyone can learn information in one place rather than having to go with 20 different departments and websites.

“It's unlikely there will be immediate relief for farmers. Never has there been a time farmers are more important.

“I don't want to see a situation where water prices continue to rise and investors are profiting from water.”

In a statement, Mr Pitt said he had received Mr Keelty's report and was fully aware of how important his inquiry was to many communities throughout the Murray-Darling Basin and that there would be significant interest in his findings.

“The public can be assured that it will be released as soon as possible and it will not be determined by parliamentary sitting dates,” Mr Pitt said.

“As is standard practice in these circumstances, I will release the report once I’ve had the opportunity to read it and fully consider any recommendations.

“The government’s response will be considered in the context of other relevant reviews, including the Sefton Report and ACCC inquiry.”