Contributed by Joe Montero
Governments have consistently failed to restore the Murray Darling river system to health, despite repeated promises to do so. This is a major failure to protect a vital resource on the driest continent, and breech to manage it the sustainable use of water and protect the environment.
A body of evidence has built, to suggest that the is a high incidence of corruption involved in the control of water, showing another part of the runaway corrupt behaviour, greasing the activities of those involved in big business and the political establishment.
Concern has reached a point where many Australians are demanding a national inquiry with teeth, and the establishment of a national anti-corruption watchdog.
Now senior judges across the country have signed a letter to the Attorney General Christian Porter, over the ‘Strategic Water Purchases’ of Tandou, Warrego, Condamine-Balonne and Murrumbidgee, be referred to a federal version of the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
They are supporting the call for an anti-corruption watchdog, out of concern that large sums of money were paid to cotton industry related major irrigators, at a price that is substantially higher than the market price. Payments are being made out of $13 billion allocated to the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
According to media reports on the ABC and in the Guardian, just one irrigator in Queensland, Norman Farming, got $25 million. This case is being investigated by Queensland’s Major Fraud Squad.
The issue here is not about whether the payments have been used to cut down water usage, which the evidence suggests has been minimal. It is about the improper use of large sums of tax payers’ money.
A Four Corners episode in 2017 revealed that more than 400 reports showed the government’s failure to bring the river system back to health. These have been included by the Australia Institute in its own report, called The Basin Files – Maladministration of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
Among the signatories is former NSW Public Prosecutor Nick Cowdery.
“The media investigations have painted a clear picture of mismanagement and maladministration of the Murray Darling waters, but the persistent media exposure seems to have been ignored by authorities, if not peremptorily dismissed by them,” he said and added “That raises the question: Why?”
Corrupt deals on a big scale, are a poison that builds a snowballing effect that infects all parts of society.
To its credit, the South Australian government has launched its own Royal Commission. But the federal government has stepped in and sought an injunction in the High Court to prevent staff giving evidence.
This makes it clear that Canberra does not want the matter to be investigated, and suggest that maybe, there is a lot to hide. Staff have also been directed not to respond to respond to a summons or hand over documents.