Watergate valuations must be released in full

22 April 2019

Centre Alliance Senator, Rex Patrick, is calling on the Government to immediately release - in full and unredacted - the valuations obtained by the Government in relation to the 2017 Kia Ora and Clyde property water purchases.

"The Government needs to remove the secrecy veil covering these purchases dubbed 'watergate' and provide complete transparency to the public over the transactions," said Rex.

"Claims that the the Senate has conducted an inquiry into 'watergate' are erroneous along with claims that the Senate has been given full access to documents related to the sale and they must be corrected," he said.

On 16 November 2017, Senator Patrick sought access to all documents relevant to water buybacks in the Murray-Darling from 1 January 2017 onwards. On 12 February 2018, a suite of documents were provided to the Senate - but with substantial redactions.

"It was clear in the documentation that the Commonwealth had been offered water from the properties at $2200 per ML but that the Government had ultimately paid $2745 per ML. What was not clear was how the Government has arrived at the $545 extra per ML it agreed to pay for it," Rex said.

In early March and in May, Senator Patrick challenged the properness of the redactions at Senate Estimates. South Australian Senator Anne Ruston, representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water, agreed to reconsider the redactions.

On 26 October 2018, the documents were again tabled in the Senate, this time with fewer redactions, but still with the valuation information redacted.

"Time is up. It is now imperative that the valuations be released," said Rex.

"The public has a right to know. It's their money. There are also more questions to be answered," he said.

"I want Barnaby Joyce to make a statement on whether he knew he was signing off on a deal that involved a company headquartered in the Cayman Islands.

"I want Minister Taylor to declare everything he knows about the shareholdings in Eastern Australia Irrigation such that the public can start to appreciate who may have benefited from the $52 million profit associated with the purchase.

"While Minister Taylor might feel he has confidentiality obligations from his former involvement with the Cayman Islands' company, his transparency obligations as a Minister of the Crown outweigh his former obligations. If necessary, he should make a statement in the Parliament under privilege.

"Minister Taylor should make a statement immediately, or commit to doing so when the Parliament returns.

"Australians have a right to know the details of this entire arrangement."

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