Just a stun­ning be­trayal of SA

Bid to stop Royal Com­mis­sion wit­nesses I


A LE­GAL move to stop wit­nesses be­ing called in front of the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Royal Com­mis­sion has been con­demned as a “stun­ning be­trayal” and “an act of treach­ery, con­tempt and bas­tardry”.

The com­mis­sion was sparked by ac­cu­sa­tions of wa­ter theft and rort­ing up­stream, and Com­mis­sioner Bret Walker is con­fi­dent he has the right to call wit­nesses. But the Fed­eral Govern­ment and the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity have asked the High Court to in­ter­vene.

La­bor la­belled it a “stun­ning be­trayal” and called on Premier Steven Mar­shall to de­mand the Fed­eral Govern­ment aban­don the ac­tion, “which would only serve to help ir­ri­ga­tors steal­ing wa­ter from SA”. “It’s time for Steven Mar­shall to de­cide whose side he is on – South Aus­tralians or east coast ir­ri­ga­tors,” Op­po­si­tion wa­ter spokes­woman Su­san Close said. SA-BEST said it was “an act of treach­ery, con­tempt and bas­tardry”. MLCs Frank Pan­gallo and Con­nie Bonaros tied the move to the Mayo by-elec­tion, say­ing can­di­date Re­bekha Sharkie would fight for the state’s rights.

“(Wa­ter Min­is­ter David) Lit­tleproud’s de­ci­sion to go to the High Court is a clear indi- cation the Com­mon­wealth has a lot to hide,” Mr Pan­gallo said.

Most royal com­mis­sions are fed­eral, so this le­gal ma­noeu­vre is a way to test how far state laws can ex­tend. The Govern­ment will be con­cerned it could set a prece­dent for states to de­mand fed­eral em­ploy­ees ap­pear be­fore their own in­quiries. The Mur­rayDar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity said they were is­sued with sum­monses but that their view was the com­mis­sion had no right to com­pel wit­nesses, a view they want to test in the High Court.

At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Vickie Chap­man said the in­ter­ven­tion would not “im­me­di­ately im­pede the oper­a­tion of the com­mis­sion” as there were “a num­ber of other wit­nesses who are very keen” to give ev­i­dence. The com­mis­sion’s public hear­ings be­gin on Mon­day.

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