Murray-Darling Transactions To Be Thoroughly Investigated

25 February 2018

SA-Best leader Nick Xenophon and NXT's Environment Spokesperson Senator Rex Patrick will jointly refer matters raised in The Australia Institute's Moving Targets analysis released today on the Commonwealth buyback of water in the Warrego River to the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission. 

The Institute's analysis alleges two related instances of inappropriate conduct by officials.

Firstly, that water has been purchased by the Federal Government at more than twice the market price.

Secondly, that they planned to transfer the 'phantom' recovery amount (because that water has little flow into the Darling) from the Warrego River to the Border Rivers region where the big irrigators will be permitted to take 'real water' that would otherwise make it to the Murray-Darling. 

"These explosive allegations add to the existing concerns of water theft, rorting, meter tampering and dodgy modelling which has totally undermined confidence in the Government's implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan," said Rex. 

The Australia Institute's analysis was conducted after 522 pages of buyback documents were obtained by Senator Patrick using a Senate order for production. 

"The Australia Institute's analysis has been frustrated by the Federal Government's redactions in the tabled documents. On the face of it, the redactions appear to cover up information that is not genuinely sensitive, rather just embarrassing or troublesome for the Government," said Rex. "One can only wonder what the Government has to hide."

"I will be pursuing this lack of transparency with the Department of Agriculture at Senate Estimates this coming Friday. The Government has to come clean on all of this. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority will certainly have questions to answer too."

Rebekha Sharkie, the Member for Mayo, an electorate encompassing the Murray mouth, was both astonished and outraged by today's revelations.  

"How can we trust that the Plan will be implemented to benefit all Australians when there are allegations of deals behind closed doors with taxpayer funded buybacks at more than double the market rate? None of this makes sense and South Australians deserve answers," Rebekha said. 

"For the Federal Government to even begin restoring confidence in the Basin, Prime Minister Turnbull must commit to full transparency. This commitment must extend to requiring his Ministers, and former Ministers, to appear before the Royal Commission if requested by the Commissioner."

SA-Best leader, Nick Xenophon, has fought for the Murray-Darling for over a decade. 

"I am disgusted by the current state of affairs and will continue to stand up alongside my federal colleagues for the Murray-Darling and South Australia," said Nick. "Where does Liberal leader Steven Marshall stand on all of this? Is he prepared to take on his Coalition partners to get to the truth of this?" 

"SA-Best and NXT will work with Governments at both the Federal and State levels, but it is a two way street. Transparency and openness are key party policies and the time to clear the murky waters of the Murray is now."

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