Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment

These waters have been muddied for too long

Weekly Times, Melbourne
2 July 2014

NEW trading rules as part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan implementation represent a subtle level of progress in water reform.

The new rules, which began on July 1, will ensure equal access to trading information for everyone, and greater overall confidence in the market as mandatory price disclosure makes the real value of water more transparent.

Farmers, irrigators and other individuals in the market will benefit from this new commitment to market transparency across states.

However, most water market participants will find their actions will be affected only marginally by the changes.

The requirement for individuals to report price when submitting their trade will improve the quality of market information, where this does not happen already. As the price can be submitted as part of the normal trade application form, there will be no additional red tape for users.

At the state and infrastructure operator level, the new rules will remove most current trade restrictions.

From July 1, restrictions on trade will only be allowed in limited circumstances.

For example this might include where there are physical constraints in the river system, where transmission losses would be too great or in the case of a negative impact on the environment or other water users.

The development of water markets across the Murray-Darling Basin hasalso allowed water to be used more flexibly and for different purposes, such as trading between different industries, and also for trade between the environment and productive users.

We saw evidence of this earlier in the year when the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder sold water on the temporary market for the first time in the Gwydir Valley.

This action was widely welcomed across the spectrum of stakeholders, including those who purchased the allocations.

The new trading rules will allow further development and expansion of this and other types of water trade.

The new water trading rules have been a joint effort and have been developed in consultation with people in the market, the state agencies, water businesses and the ACCC.

The states will continue to have responsibility for managing and approving water trade within their jurisdictions, while the Murray-Darling Basin Authority will help to coordinate and regulate trade.

The Australian Government is committed to ensuring water resources in the Murray-Darling Basin are sustainably managed well into the future.

These new trading rules are an important part of achieving this, for both communities and the environment.

Simon Birmingham