The Opposition is warning regional communities and primary industries to be cautious following an announcement that the Cook Labor Government would walk away from their long-planned water management reforms.
Opposition Leader Shane Love said a Government media statement, made with little fanfare just days before Christmas, was merely an attempt to defer the reforms until after the next State election.
“The last thing WA Labor wants to do is introduce yet another contentious piece of legislation and pick a fight with producers and landowners in the lead-up to the 2025 State election,” Mr Love said.
“The real concern is the Government is muddying the waters on these significant reforms, claiming they are not on the agenda, only to turn around and implement them if they return to Government in 2025.
“They have done it before with electoral reform, and there is no reason they would not proceed with these reforms given the opportunity.”
As recently as August, the Water Minister told Parliament: “This Government has committed to modernising the water legislation.”
In September, the Minister told the Farm Weekly that a new Water Reform Bill was expected to be introduced to Parliament before the end of 2023.
The suite of reforms floated by the Minister included greater consideration of climate change for water planning and management, as well as providing traditional owners with a stake in water allocations.
According to the Minister, the proposed legislation would “seek to ensure Aboriginal land, economic and cultural development concerns are effectively represented.”
Mr Love said the reforms were particularly contentious with landowners who were still reeling from Labor’s attacks on property rights earlier in the year in the form of the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Act.
“While the Minister’s press release attempts to assure water users and stakeholders that these contentious reforms will not proceed, it is far from an ironclad guarantee,” Mr Love said.
“Given the Minister’s repeated commitment to modernise the water legislation, I have no doubt these reforms will find their way onto the Government’s agenda if they have the opportunity to revisit them after the 2025 State election.”