Privatisation: The Cost of Water Reform?

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Allan Scott Auditorium,  UniSA City West campus,  Hawke Building

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Presented by the Water Action Coalition and supported by the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre at UniSA


Keynotes by:

Respondents - Facilitator Deb Tribe: 891 ABC Radio

Politicians Right of Reply

Program and speaker biographies

A sustainable Water Future without compromising the health of interdependent ecosystems is a critical issue for our state and our nation.

What are the likely social, environmental, legal and economic impacts of Water Reform? And what can we do about it?

"Privatisation: The Cost of Water Reform?" will explore the water reform process and the far reaching impact of increasing privatisation, and where control of our water, our rivers and aquifers and our water supply utilities currently lies and will lie into the future and the implications for citizens.

The mismanagement of the Murray-Darling Basin over the last two decades has had disastrous consequences for communities, ecosystems and economies, particularly those at the end of the river system in South Australia. There have also been significant impacts on greater metropolitan Adelaide with more to come.

COAG's Water Reform agenda will be under the spotlight in this forum. Many Australians have supported the spirit of water reform, but many are beginning to question the push towards a national water 'market' , and whether the broad needs of citizens and environments of Australia can truly be addressed under such a 'privatised' system.

Background: The process of Australian Water Reform commenced in the late 1980s and has been driven by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). In June 2004, Premier Rann co-signed the "Intergovernmental Agreement on a National Water Initiative" (NWI). The National Water Commission was established to hold the states accountable to this process. The stated objective of the NWI is "to achieve a nationally compatible market, regulatory and planning based system of managing surface and groundwater resources for rural and urban use that optimises economic, social and environmental outcomes". The 2010 Draft Water Industry Act sanctions the establishment of private companies to provide monopoly and fragmented water supply and water services. It is expected that there will be higher costs for South Australian households and businesses as a result.

Format: Prominent speakers have been invited to take part in a forum that will discuss the environmental, social, economic and legal/constitutional implications of Water Reform. Politicians will be invited to respond. The evening will also include a panel session and questions from the floor.

About Water Action Coalition: WAC is a broadly based movement of community groups and environmental organisations seeking an informed and constructive debate on our water future. WAC supports policies that seek to ensure sustainable water supplies, without compromising the health of interdependent ecosystems.

New report from Maude Barlow

Next month we will mark the 1 year celebration of GA Resolution 292/64 which recognized the human right to water and sanitation. Maude has written a report which points us towards implementing this historic victory; moving from the words and concepts to action and water justice.

OUR RIGHT TO WATER: A People's Guide to Implementing the United Nations' Recognition of the Right to Water and Sanitation

The full report can be downloaded here:

We are hoping that others can use this tool to initiate national action plans to move the human right to water and sanitation ahead in other countries. There will need to be strategic discussions on what are the next steps for our movement, but this report provides a much needed foundation for next steps.

While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: strengthening our democracy - valuing our diversity - and building our future.

The copying and reproduction of any transcripts within the Hawke Centre public program is strictly forbidden without prior arrangements.