Transparency Missing as Taxpayers Subsidise Corporate Water Giants

09 July 2019

Last night’s Four Corners program raised more questions about the Liberal National Government’s mismanagement of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.  But maybe they just don’t care.
The allegations are explosive. Among other issues, the ABC has reported that the partly-foreign-owned corporation Webster Limited received more than $40 million and has actually expanded its irrigation operations, despite the on-farm irrigation scheme being intended to reduce the pressure caused by extraction from the river system.
Webster Limited’s chairman is Chris Corrigan, who has been, among other things, a significant Liberal Party donor via his own company, Qube.
The Morrison Government needs to come clean about whether they have checked that projects are delivering for the health of the river system.
The Productivity Commission told the government in December 2017 that better monitoring, evaluation, auditing and reporting is needed. The Government needs to act.
There are no jobs on a dead river. And you can’t irrigate crops once the water dries up.  But the Morrison Government is asleep at the wheel.
If the Morrison government doesn’t know where and how taxpayer dollars are being spent, nor the environmental or water efficiency value achieved for these investments, then they have failed Australian farmers, communities and the environment.
These fresh questions come after an earlier water scandal under the Liberal National Government, about a massive water buyback worth $80 million from Eastern Australia Agriculture. EAA was linked to Morrison Government Minister Angus Taylor and was reportedly owned by a Caymans-based entity.
Labor is calling on the Morrison Government to immediately come clean on the details of the payments, including the 72 payments above $1 million that it says that it has made.
It must commit to a comprehensive independent audit of the scheme, given the claims that large, partly-foreign-owned corporate water users are using more water than envisaged, while being subsidised by taxpayers.
Why does it take mass fish kills and investigative reporting for the Government to do its job? You’d think they didn’t care.