Debugging Watergate: interpreting official responses

The Australia Institute has today released analysis of official responses to the Watergate scandal surrounding Murray Darling water purchases, covered by The Project, Guardian and other outlets.

The analysis finds that official responses are misleading and in some cases incorrect:

  • The Prime Minister’s claim that the record water purchase was covered in a Senate inquiry is false. There has been no Senate inquiry into strategic water purchases.
  • The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources statement implying the water purchased can be used off property is misleading. Water can leave the properties owned by Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA), but cannot be legally protected from extraction by other irrigators.

“The responses to the Watergate scandal are playing semantics and not providing any real answers to taxpayers about the EAA purchase,” said Maryanne Slattery, Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute.

“There are far more questions that remain unanswered, such as how would the Commonwealth store and protect this water it has purchased for $80 million.

“None of the response answer the big questions about why was so much water paid, how will it be used and the role of a Cayman Islands-based company.

“The Department’s claims that irrigation infrastructure has been permanently decommissioned appears not to have been verified and seemingly contradicted by EAA sales material.

“The Australia Institute has been raising concerns about this and other water purchases for more than a year. A royal commission or referral to a federal ICAC is urgently needed to get to the bottom of the mismanagement of the Murray Darling Basin.”

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