Watergate: Environmentalists and irrigators clash over Four Corners’ corruption claims

Last night, Four Corners suggested massive corruption within the plan to save the Murray-Darling Basin. This morning, both sides of the issue have sparred through press releases.



A Four Corners investigation has bubbled the questionable Murray-Darling water buybacks back to the surface. Colloquially known as Watergate, the damning segment has renewed discussion in the wake of further evidence suggesting that public funds lined the pockets of private enterprise and seldom reached the struggling river.



Numerous environment, indigenous, farming and community groups are again calling for a full independent audit of spending and environmental outcomes under the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

“The crisis affecting the Murray-Darling is a consequence of state and federal Water Ministers ruling out water buybacks and relying on untested infrastructure projects,” said Environment Victoria CEO, Jonathan La Nauze.

“If the audit shows these infrastructure projects are ineffective and a massive waste of public money, then all governments must acknowledge the current approach isn’t working,” he added.

Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said: “Once again, Four Corners has blown the lid off the failure of federal and state governments to properly manage and implement the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The experiment of subsidising big corporate irrigators to become more efficient has served only to line their pockets. State and federal Water Ministers need to deliver a rigorous and independent audit of the Basin Plan’s implementation so the public knows where the water and the money have gone.”

Furthering his original point, La Nauze concluded: “Without healthy and functioning rivers, many rural communities will struggle. It is not jobs versus the environment – it is neither or both.”

On the other side of the fence, the peak representative body for Australia’s cotton growing industry submitted the following press release prior to the Four Corners investigation airing, with Michael Murray, the General Manager of Cotton Australia etching the follow: “It is beyond disappointing to once again see the ABC’s Four Corners program use its influential position to air another biased, inaccurate piece of journalism. The ‘Cash Splash’ story was riddled with factual errors and guided the audience down a path of misrepresentation about the fundamentals of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.”

“We acknowledge that there are public concerns around water management in this country. While we agree the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is not perfect, we continue to support its full implementation as it was conceived in 2012 and re-agreed to by state and federal water ministers in 2018. Why? Because it is the best and only deal that could be achieved by the Basin states and the Commonwealth after years of negotiation.

“We are in the middle of an extreme drought. No party (the environment or irrigators) have the water they want; but the Plan, and the water it has secured for the environment, is delivering right now, with environmental flows making their way through the Basin.”




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