Watergate: Murray River Scandal Deepens

2 March 2018

SA-Best leader Nick Xenophon and NXT's Environment Spokesperson Senator Rex Patrick will make their second referral to the South Australian Murray-Darling Royal Commission in just one week. 

The referral follows analysis published today by The Guardian which alleges one of Australia’s largest cotton companies, Eastern Australia Agriculture, sold water rights to the federal government in July last year for $79 million and then booked a $51 million gain on the sale, raising questions about whether the government paid over the odds for the water.

"There seems to be a scandal developing at every bend in the river," said Rex. 

The Guardian's allegations are drawn from documents obtained by Senator Patrick under a Senate order for production and comes after last week's allegation by The Australia Institute that the Federal Government paid more than twice the market price for water buybacks in the Warrego catchment.

"It is not lost on those who have examined the documents supplied to the Senate that critical information relating to independent valuations has been redacted for each buyback," said Rex.

Rebekha Sharkie, the Member for Mayo, an electorate encompassing the Murray mouth, also expressed her continued frustration and was particularly concerned about the redactions. 

"Why would the Government redact independent valuations when their disclosure should alleviate any concerns? The only plausible explanation for the secrecy is that there is a massive discrepancy between the independent valuations and the actual price paid."

Senator Patrick will be raising these and other allegations at a Senate Estimates hearing today when the Department of Agriculture and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority will appear. 

"The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, claimed in Parliament on Wednesday that the Nick Xenophon Team was playing politics with the Murray-Darling Basin. Let's just wait and see what the Royal Commission says about what's really going on," said Rex.

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