Littleproud attacks states over water

By Geoff Adams

Federal Water Minister David Littleproud has lashed out at state governments for not doing enough to build more dams, and cancelled a proposed visit to the Murray River on Monday.

He accused the states of doing "three-fifths of bugger all" to build dams.

Mr Littleproud said states had failed to plan in delivering water security, which he stressed was not a Federal Government responsibility.

"The states are doing three-fifths of bugger all in terms of building infrastructure to supply urban water as well as agricultural water," he said in the South Australian town of Renmark on Sunday.

"We have to hold them to account."

Of 19 dams built nationally since 2003, 16 have been in Tasmania. Mr Littleproud questioned what eastern states had been doing.

Mr Littleproud was due to visit the Barmah Choke on Monday morning but cancelled the trip due to undisclosed circumstances.

On Sunday, Mr Littleproud said the states had abrogated their responsibility on many occasions.

"They use us as their ATM when they hit a problem but they don't deserve sometimes to have the responsibility they have."

He said the Federal Government had made billions available to states for water infrastructure projects to deliver drought-proofing and environmental outcomes.

But he struck a more conciliatory tone with his state counterparts on delivering the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

"The yelling and screaming has stopped," Mr Littleproud said.

"If we all play nice, we lead rather than politicise, we can get this done."

The minister warned against confusing the impacts of the drought with the plan, arguing the latter would not provide any water without rain.

"If anyone wants to take me on I'm prepared to dance with them," he said.

Mr Littleproud is touring the southern basin with interim Murray-Darling Basin inspector general Mick Keelty.

The former Australian Federal Police commissioner, who was previously the northern basin commissioner, said water was a national asset managed by states in complex ways.

"Every state has a different licence arrangement," Mr Keelty said.

"Every state has a different compliance arrangement — that is not good."

He said 80 per cent of the $13 billion plan had been delivered.

"We've got to make sure that the last portion of this money is properly spent and we reduce the opportunity for corruption and we reduce the opportunity for fraud," Mr Keelty said.

Murray-Darling Basin Authority officials have joined Mr Littleproud and Mr Keelty, with the group visiting water conservation projects in SA on Sunday. The tour is set to visit key basin sites in Victoria and NSW on Monday and Tuesday.