Labor's Plan to Future-Proof Australia's Water Resources

Labor’s Water for Australia plan will future-proof Australia’s water resources by establishing a National Water Commission and broadening the National Water Grid Investment Framework so it can fund a wider range of water supply projects. Labor’s Water for Australia plan will:

  • Establish a National Water Commission – to drive ongoing water reform and future-proof Australia’s water resources.

  • Broaden the National Water Grid investment policy – to allow funding for a broader range of projects. This will bring essential town water supplies in regional and remote communities within the scope of the funding, in addition to funding agricultural projects. 
  • Deliver a five-point plan to safeguard the Murray Darling Basin – upholding the Murray Darling Basin Plan, and laying the groundwork for the Basin’s future:
    • Delivering on water commitments – including the 450GL for South Australia.
    • Increasing compliance, and improving metering and monitoring.
    • Restoring transparency, integrity and confidence in water markets and water management.
    • Increasing First Nations ownership and involvement in decision-making.
    • Updating the science.

Why do we need this?

Managing water well is crucial for our Australia’s future. There are big challenges ahead, including climate change, population growth, and increasing agricultural demand. Water reform is an ongoing national task. To be done well, it needs serious focus from the federal government, alongside other Australian governments. 

After almost a decade in office, the current Liberal Government has:

  • Abolished the National Water Commission, leaving a policy vacuum when it comes to making sure Australians have water security, for all purposes, into the future.  

  • Promised but not delivered a statutory National Water Grid Authority, to “take the politics out of water.”

  • Failed to renew the National Water Initiative, as repeatedly called for by the Productivity Commission.

  • Announced and then disbanded the National Water Grid Advisory Body within a year and a half.

In its 2020 and 2021 infrastructure priority lists, Infrastructure Australia specifically identified town and city water security as high priority.  The Productivity Commission also told the federal government the National Water Grid Fund’s investment policy should be broadened to allow funding for all projects where government involvement may be warranted, including supporting access to essential town water supplies in regional and remote communities. But the Morrison-Joyce Government has ignored this recommendation. 

The details

Labor will establish a National Water Commission to drive ongoing water reform and future-proof Australia’s water resources. The National Water Commission will:

  • Lead cross-portfolio and cross-jurisdiction work to make sure our country has secure and sustainable access to water. 

  • Support the renewal of the National Water Initiative and conduct ongoing reviews.

  • Work with all other jurisdictions towards the implementation of the water-related priorities included in Infrastructure Australia’s Infrastructure Priority List.

  • Break down silos between jurisdictions by working with States and Territories. Having a standing, formal, regular forum directly with Australian local governments to ensure their experience and expertise is taken into account on an ongoing basis.

  • Ensure First Nations knowledge and perspectives are taken into account in its work.

Labor will also broaden the National Water Grid investment policy, to allow funding for more projects.

This will make essential town water supplies in regional and remote communities eligible for funding, so that projects like the Cairns Water Security project can be considered, in addition to the continued use of the fund for agriculture projects. In doing so Labor will ensure that critical water projects are able to gain access to government funding where they stack up environmentally and economically. 

Labor will invest $34 million over the forward estimates in establishing a National Water Commission.

Related policies