Ask me about water theft, deputy PM dares

September 12, 2017

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has dared the opposition to ask him about water theft.

With accusations of water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin still swirling, Barnaby Joyce has dared the opposition to ask him about them in parliament.

Both Labor and the Greens have stepped up their call for a judicial inquiry into allegations of mismanagement and water theft first unveiled by a Four Corners investigation in August.

Mr Joyce, the federal minister responsible for water resources, dismissed Labor's motives.

"It's all theatrics ... there's no seriousness about it. I'll get no question. They'll prefer to do some kind of gimmick for the camera rather than ask the hard questions," he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

"If they're serious about it, they'll ask me a question about it today in question time rather than playing parlour games."

There are five independent inquiries or reviews underway to investigate issues raised in the Four Corners program.

An interim report released by former senior state public servant Ken Matthews has raised concerns about ineffectual compliance and enforcement arrangements in NSW.

The report recommended a "systemic fix" of structural improvements to be considered at the ministerial level.

Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said when Malcolm Turnbull had been minister for water resources he had supported reform in the basin

"What we know is that the National Party is undermining this reform. He needs to take control," Senator Wong said.

"He needs to take the water responsibilities away from Barnaby Joyce and he needs to have a proper judicial inquiry."

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young also called for water resources to be removed from Mr Joyce's portfolio responsibilities.

"It is just ridiculous that a man who has sat there and overseen the corruption and theft of water can still sit on the Turnbull government's front bench as a minister," she said.

"I'll also be writing to the prime minister and saying very clearly that he is putting at risk the integrity of the management of the Murray-Darling Basin the longer that Barnaby Joyce remains there."

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