The National Water Commission is an independent body that provides frank and well-informed advice to Australian governments about the progress of national water reform. So why does the Abbott Government want to get rid of it?
Since its establishment in 2004, the Commission has played a critical role, highlighting the successes and challenges of water management, providing oversight and leadership. It has highlighted the slow progress of reform to meet Indigenous water rights and the risks associated with coal seam gas mining, among many others.
Is it any wonder that the Abbott Government wants to abolish the Commission? An Abolition Bill was set to go before Parliament In December. The powers and responsibilities of the Commission would be rolled over to the Productivity Commission and Federal Environment Department. While the bill to abolish the NWC didn't go through in 2014, it's due to come up again in February 2015. Friends of the Earth prepared a submission on the Abolition Bill which you can read here.
We have a last chance to try and save the Commission by lobbying cross-bench Senators in the lead up to the vote on the Bill.
Please consider emailing or (better still) calling the following Senators. Please let them know how important it is to maintain an independent commission with expertise in water management.
(02) 6277 3471
(02) 6277 3040
(02) 6277 3204
(02) 6277 3843
(02) 6277 3063
(02) 6277 3054
(02) 6277 3552
The following points might assist you in communicating with the Senators.
- The National Water Commission has played a vital, positive role overseeing the implementation of national water reform for a decade. A 2012 COAG review of the Commission found that it continued to play a fundamental role and should continue to function without a sunset provision.
- The Commission has provided strong and well-informed advice to government about the potential impacts of new resource development, such as Coal-Seam Gas mining, on communities and water resources.
- Rural communities need to know that there is a strong, independent agency that can bring these emerging issues to the attention of government.
- The decision to abolish the Commission represents poor value for money: it will deliver marginal savings, while undermining a decade of work and expertise, thus risking further delays in implementation of water reform.
- The proposal to transfer the Commission's powers to the Productivity Commission will not provide certainty to communities concerned about impacts on water in their regions, given that the Productivity Commission's legislated role is limited to matters of 'industry, industry development and productivity'.
- I urge you NOT to vote in favour of the National Water Commission (abolition) Bill. It does not represent the best interests of taxpayers and rural people.