Federal Water Minister David Littleproud (pictured) has left the door open to support a Nationals backbench push to dramatically shake up water rules to help farmers in drought (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Federal Water Minister David Littleproud has left the door open to support a Nationals backbench push to dramatically shake up water rules to help farmers in drought.
NSW Nationals senator Perin Davey is drafting legislation which would set a trigger for releasing water earmarked for the environment back onto the market for irrigators.
Mr Littleproud said the party room would look at the former irrigation consultant's plan before making a decision.
"It never hurts to look outside the square," he told AAP.
"I think Perin Davey probably has more experience in water policy than most people in government. You never say never."
The measure would be a major change to how water is shared under the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
While Mr Littleproud is yet to see Senator Davey's private bill, other Nationals backbenchers have thrown support behind the idea.
Victorian MPs Damian Drum and Anne Webster have backed overhauling water laws.
Former leader Barnaby Joyce wants a debate on the allocation of water from the Commonwealth Environment Water Holder to farmers.
"We in the National Party are all about representing our local communities," Mr Littleproud said.
"If Perin brings that to the party room, I'm sure that we'll work through that constructively and come to a position."
The basin plan will be in the spotlight at a meeting of federal and state water ministers next Tuesday.
Mr Littleproud is still trying to get the states' agreement to legislate new powers for the basin's interim inspector-general Mick Keelty.
Angry farmers raised compliance issues across the basin with the federal government when they protested at Parliament House in Canberra last week.
"They had real concerns and they wanted a trusted identity that overarches the states because there was some trust issues even within those state bodies," Mr Littleproud said.
Victoria and NSW have raised objections to the inspector-general's role if it is expanded beyond compliance to include determining water sharing.
The federal government needs the agreement of basin states and territories due to constitutional issues.
Next week's meeting also comes as NSW continues to threaten to pull out of the plan over the amount of water it must give to the environment despite the prolonged drought.
Mr Littleproud said the Murray-Darling Basin Authority had warned basin states and the federal government about the consequences if one jurisdiction pulled out.
© AAP 2019