In the media

Water privatised and sold to highest bidder

Barnaby Joyce has come under fire for his role in a controversial $80 million water buy back deal. He claims he has nothing to hide; in fact he has pointed the finger at the Labor Party.

There are also claims a tax haven-based company has been paid $80 million for water that doesn’t exist, and heavy criticism also revolving around allegations that no open tender was in place for the transaction.

This is just another example of mismanagement of our water by the Liberal/National/Labor governments over the years, and another example of why we need better transparency, especially when water is such a vital asset to every Australian.

Without water, humans and animals cannot survive. Beyond the importance of having clean water to drink, we also need water to develop our communities, for industry, farming and food production and for jobs.

In Australia, our successive governments have failed us. The way water access has been licensed over the years is having disastrous effects on the towns and people who live along the Darling and Murray rivers and I believe that we need to rip up the Murray Darling Basin plan and start again.

For decades our Governments have failed to deliver the most obvious solution – that is to harvest rain water that flows into the sea. Seasonal monsoonal rains in Australia’s Northern Territory for example should have been piped south where it can be stored and used. Known for its droughts, Australia is one country that needs to collect and use its water wisely. Why have Labor and Liberal Governments failed this essential task?

The failure of Governments to foresee a water shortage and address it for towns like Broken Hill who currently are trucking water into their city is an astonishing failure.

The arrival in the late 1970’s of foreign owned cotton production and the huge development of Cubbie Station has made water supply much worse. This majority Chinese-owned property consumes massive amounts of water, equivalent each year to the whole of the water mass of Sydney Harbour!

Downstream, towns and water dependent people, stock and farmers do not get any or enough of it.

The need for harvesting water shouldn’t come as a surprise to our Governments. Nearly 20 per cent of Australia’s land mass is classified as desert with low average annual rainfall.

In 1983, Cubbie Station was converted from grazing purposes to cotton production.


Cubbie station was created by amalgamating twelve floodplain properties to give Cubbie a total of fifty-one water licences, and they get to take the water first, and if there isn’t any left to flow downstream, that it seems was a disaster never considered by our revolving Governments.

Cubbie station’s water storage dams stretch for more than 28 kilometres along the Culgoa River, within the Murray-Darling basin. In an average year the station uses 200,000 megalitres (7,100×106 cu ft) of water, in a good year as much as 500,000 megalitres (18,000×106 cu ft).

The water is used to supply 130 square kilometres (50 sq mi) of irrigated cotton and other crops including wheat, which generates a net profit in the range of A$50 million to A$80 million a year.

The station is licensed to take 460,000 megalitres (16,000×106 cu ft), the equivalent of all irrigation entitlements downstream in north-western NSW. The property has the capacity to grow 200 square kilometres of cotton. In 2006, the dams on the property were filled to 1% capacity allowing for only 200 hectares (490 acres) of cotton planting. The station is often condemned for its large water usage requirements in a time of extreme drought in Australia and damage to the Murray Darling river system.

On 31 August 2012 the Australian Government, on advice from the Foreign Investment Review Board, approved the sale of Cubbie Group, to a consortium comprising Shandong RuYi Scientific & Technological Group Co Ltd, a clothing and textile company owned by Chinese and Japanese investors, and Lempriere Group, an Australian family-owned company involved in wool trading and agricultural property management. The approval provided RuYi with an 80% initial ownership interest on condition that this interest be reduced to 51% within three years.

The purchase of Cubbie Station by foreign interests had the support of the major opposition party in the Australian Parliament, the Liberal Party.

Our politicians that have been responsible for our water management problems should hang their heads. Since being elected as a Senator for New South Wales, I have listened to our farmers and those that have been affected by the Murray Darling Water crisis and this latest water debacle by the Liberal and National parties must be the final straw. As I said earlier, water is the right of every Australian, not the right of foreign interests and large corporations.

I am vehemently opposed to the sell-off of Australian agricultural land and our water rights.