Nationals MP attempts to block water petition

Nationals MP objects to Helen Dalton introducing petition for water register

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Petition debate was set for 4pm today.

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Member for Murray, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers' Helen Dalton submitting the Speak Up petition for a water register and royal commission to parliament.

Member for Murray, Shooters, Fishers and Farmers' Helen Dalton submitting the Speak Up petition for a water register and royal commission to parliament.

Member for Murray, Helen Dalton says an undisclosed Nationals MP has formally objected to her introducing and voting on the Speak Up 4 Water petition.

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The petition, which calls for a national water register and royal commission into water mismanagement, has 11,000 signatures and was due for debate in state parliament at 4pm this afternoon.

Ms Dalton said she was told the objection was on the grounds that she had a conflict of interest, Standing Order 176, which states 'a Member cannot vote on any question in which the Member has a direct pecuniary interest not held in common with other citizens of the State.'

"The Speaker of the House is currently deciding on the status of the debate, the House has informed me that the MP that has objected doesn't want to be identified," Ms Dalton said.

Ms Dalton called on the Nationals MP to disclose who they are and why they objected.

"I think everyone wants transparency around water, so why would you object? What is the National Party hiding?" Ms Dalton said.

"I've declared my water interests, it's time they declared theirs."

Petitions with 10,000 or more signatures can be set down for debate in House of Representatives.

Bill to reveal water barons introduced to parliament 

Ms Dalton said she was notified of the objection this morning, just prior to the introduction of her bill to NSW parliament to "end the secrecy of water ownership across the state."

The Water Management Amendment (Water Rights Transparency) Bill introduced by Ms Dalton (and separate to the Speak Up 4 Water petition), aims to make three changes to improve water ownership transparency.

- Change the pecuniary interest form for NSW MPs so they must declare water ownership.

- Change the application process for obtaining a water licence to include details such as company directors and major shareholders.

- Change the online NSW water register to allow people to search for the water holdings of individuals, companies and government departments.

Speaking in parliament, Ms Dalton said the bill was "extremely overdue."

"Secrecy is the mother of corruption and mismanagement, I believe the toxic level of secrecy surrounding water ownership across NSW is a major reason why we find ourselves in the water mess we are in today," Ms Dalton said.

"We all know the drought in Australia has caused misery and hardship for many, but did you know it's also been extremely profitable for a select few?

"We don't always know who because it is impossible to find out who owns water in NSW, nor how much they own."

The bill proposes corporate organisations applying for a water licence must disclose their ABN, registered address, position of applicant, details of related corporations, names of directors and names of shareholders with more than a 20 per cent interest in the company.

"It's not good enough for a company in the Cayman Islands to buy large quantities of water...while keeping the names of directors, board members and shareholders a secret, this is disgraceful," Ms Dalton said.

"If you're a corporation, foreign or domestic and you want to own Australia's most valuable natural resource than we, the Australian taxpayers, deserve to know something about you."

The bill would also ensure that an online water register would allow people for search for water holdings using a person's name, company name or government department name.

"While the NSW government authority, Water NSW maintains an online water register, the limited information contained in this register and restricted search functions blocks transparency," Ms Dalton said.

"It is not possible to search for the Water Access Licences of an individual person's name, company name, Australian Business Number, government department name or even an irrigation scheme name.

"Instead the register allows you to search for a Water Access Licence number.

"How the hell would you know the Water Access Licence?"

Debate on the bill was adjourned.

More to come.

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