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Auditor-General’s ‘Watergate’ report shows incompetence and dodgy practices

Media Release
Sarah Hanson-Young 16 Jul 2020

It’s untenable to leave the National Party in charge of water and a Royal Commission is needed more than ever, after today’s Auditor-General’s report into ‘Watergate’ found the government didn’t even try to achieve value for money of water entitlements and didn’t appropriately manage conflicts of interest, the Greens say.

Today’s report comes after Greens Water Spokesperson and Senator for South Australia Sarah Hanson-Young, and a number of other MPs, referred analysis conducted by The Australia Insititute, and reports alleging the Department of Agriculture and Resources, which manages the purchase of water, had significantly overpaid vendors for water in the Warrego catchment, Tandou and the Condamine-Balonne Valley to the Auditor General.

Subsequent analysis released in January 2020 by TAI showed the Federal Government paid exorbitant prices for water rights to a company linked to Minister Angus Taylor, while Barnaby Joyce was the Water Minister.

Senator Hanson-Young said:

“Taxpayers footed an $80m bill to a company linked to Energy Minister Angus Taylor, for water that’s never been seen. The deal stunk.

“Today’s report raises even more questions. There must be a Royal Commission to get to the bottom of these scandals and I again urge all sides of politics to back my bill to establish one.

“The Auditor-General’s report confirms the department’s approach to managing water procurements, overseen by Barnaby Joyce, was a shambles and stinks worse than fish rotting in Menindee Lakes in summer.

“At best, this report reveals incompetence, at worst it shows another taxpayer rort overseen by the National Party.

“The Auditor-General found the department didn’t use a value for money approach for procurement of strategic water entitlements. Put simply, taxpayers were ripped off by a government that claims to be good economic managers.

“The Auditor-General also recommended the department update arrangements for managing conflicts of interest.

“The Murray-Darling Basin has been riddled with dodgy accounting, mismanagement, and out-right water theft. The National Party and their corporate irrigator mates have used it as a slush fund while river communities, family farmers and the environment suffers.

“The stench around Morrison’s Energy Minister Angus Taylor is growing. How many more scandals before the PM shows him the door?”

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