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.