THE NSW government has voted against a bill to create an online public register listing all corporations, politicians and individuals who own NSW water entitlements.
The Water Management Amendment (Water Rights Transparency) Bill 2020, introduced by Member for Murray Helen Dalton, was defeated 45-41 on September 24 in the NSW Lower House.
It had previously passed in the Upper House.
Across both houses, all parties and independents supported Mrs Dalton's bill, except the Liberals, Nationals and Fred Nile.
"Unless you secretly own lots of 'liquid' assets, you would vote for this bill," Mrs Dalton said after the vote.
Historically, NSW farmers had water entitlements attached to their land, which they used to grow food and fibre.
However, in the 1990s, water was separated from land, becoming a tradable commodity.
Foreign corporations and non-farming entities are now able to buy and sell water for profit.
"They are buying water, hoarding it until a drought, then selling it desperate farmers, making a massive profit," Mrs Dalton said.
Currently, there is no way for the public to identify the state's water owners.
While an online NSW Public Register exists, it prevents the public for searching by name.
"The system is rife for corruption and conflicts of interests," Mrs Dalton said.
"Finding out who owns our water is the first step in fixing our water woes."
In a previous debate on the bill, the Nationals argued a public water register would violate the privacy of "mum-and-dad farmer", exposing them to attacks by environmentalists.
Unless you secretly own lots of 'liquid' assets, you would vote for this bill.Member for Murray Helen Dalton
"Would they also try and ban the White Pages for that same reason?," Mrs Dalton asked.
On the same day the decision was made, Mrs Dalton tabled an amendment protecting privacy, stating no private contact details could be included on a public register.
NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey and Albury MP Justin Clancy sspoke against the bill.
"They argued bill powerful irrigation corporations didn't like the bill," Mrs Dalton said.
"They also said we need to wait for a national approach.
"That's rubbish. We have been waiting for 20 years. NSW should be taking the lead."