Advertisement

#Watergate: Labor Sees 'No Alternative' But Royal Commission Into $80 Million Water Buyback

Labor is calling for a Royal Commission into the water buyback scheme, as questions continue to be raised over an $80 million buyback in 2017.

Shadow Environment Minister -- and former Water Minister -- Tony Burke said he sees "no alternative" if Australia wants some much-needed answers.

"You don't call a Royal Commission unless you need to," Burke told The Sunday Project, acknowledging the former Labor government's mistakes in the buyback system at large.

"But when you have a former deputy Prime Minister of Australia boasting that he took control of the department and then saying, 'Oh no, but this one was completely at arms length'... And then there's the questions about prior ownership involvement of a fellow Cabinet minister, and then we can't get to the bottom of who is involved in the Cayman Islands... I don't see any alternative but to have the powers of a Royal Commission deal with that."

tony burke
Shadow Environment Minister Tony Burke speaks to The Sunday Project.

Burke was referring to former deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, who bragged about sacking Agriculture Department secretary Paul Grimes -- leaked footage of which aired on The Project this week.

READ MORE: Barnaby Joyce Dismisses Criticism Over Water Purchase In Explosive Interview

He was also referring to Energy Minister Angus Taylor's involvement, who was co-founder and director of a Cayman Islands-headquartered company which received the government's $80 million buyback. Taylor has denied having a direct or indirect financial interest in either Eastern Australia Irrigation or its subsidiary Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA), and claimed he ceased all links prior to entering parliament in 2013.

READ MORE: Statement From Minister Angus Taylor

It comes as new questions were raised on The Sunday Project around EAA-owned Queensland property Kia Ora, one of two properties at the heart of the scandal.

kia ora water buybacks
Kia Ora as seen from the air. Photo: The Sunday Project.

Part of the $80 million buyback was to decommission levees at Kia Ora, to allow future floodwater to flow back into the river.

READ MORE: Did The Government Just Waste $80 Million Buying Water?

However, aerial surveillance by The Sunday Project showed that some key decommissioning work hasn't been completed.

A levee at the lower left-hand corner of Kia Ora was clearly marked for decommissioning, according to a report provided to Senate estimates.

water buybacks kia ora
A levee at the lower left-hand corner of Kia Ora was marked for decommissioning. Photo: Sunday Project.

But former Murray Darling Basin Authority employee Bill Johnson told The Project's Hamish Macdonald it had not been done.

"There's no breach there. That has not been touched," Johnson said, as the pair flew over the property.

"It's taken us 15 minutes to circle this property and check on this," Macdonald said.

"Why hasn't anyone done that?"

In a statement, Queensland's Department of Natural Resources told The Sunday Project that reports confirmed the decommissioning work had taken place, and officials had visited the property a number of times.

The Commonwealth Environmental landholder, which has some degree of oversight for what happens to the water, is planning to inspect the site "as soon as possible", Macdonald revealed, citing sources.

"This is a significant development," he said.

"The question is, why hasn't the Commonwealth done it until now?"