Not a drop from $80m water deal
The federal government has received no water for the $80 million it spent on water entitlements from a company once linked to its energy minister, Angus Taylor.
Mr Taylor was a director and co-founder of Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA), a Queensland-based agribusiness backed by foreign investors.
Mr Taylor founded the Australian company in 2007 and served briefly as a director between 2008 and 2009, before becoming an MP in 2013.
His business partner, Tony Reid, later acted as a consultant on the $80 million sale of overland flow entitlements to the government.
The government purchased the water without a tender, through direct negotiations with the company.
This invoked a clause in the purchasing rules that allow the government to accept an unsolicited offer in “exceptionally advantageous conditions”.
Questions have been raised about how advantageous it actually was, given that EAA immediately booked a $52 million gain on the water rights it sold, and sold the two properties to new owners to pay out the original investors.
One of the major beneficiaries was Pacific Alliance Group, whose chief investment officer, Chris Gradel, attended Oxford with Mr Taylor.
Commonwealth environmental water holder, Jody Swirepik, has confirmed in Senate estimates that the rights bought from EAA have not yielded a single drop of water.
Ms Swirepik explained that the entitlement volume was 71,456 megalitres, with an expected long-term average yield of just 28,740 megalitres.
“Just that indication will tell you that you only expect to get it every couple of years. Since the purchase, there hasn’t been a flood down that system, so no water has become available,” she said.
Ms Swirepik said the entitlement would probably not be exercised unless there are more cyclones in Queensland.
However, she said the commonwealth environmental water holder is “very supportive of the purchase”, as it may be able to benefit the Ramsar-listed Narran Lakes.