Expose water deals to save basin: Lambert

January 17, 2019

Conservative Party South Australian Senate candidate Rikki Lambert says a list of foreign water holders across Australia is being kept secret, as mass fish deaths continue in the lower Darling River.

The Advertiser reports, the Murray Darling Basin Authority this week held a preliminary meeting of Basin water officials.

MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde said the fish deaths were a tragic reminder of the “impact of severe drought, on an already over-stretched river system”.

But the lack of water in the system has prompted Mr Lambert to call on the Government to make public a list of foreign water holders.

He said an over-allocation of basin water was furthering the interests of foreigners, including a Chinese-owned textile giant, but to the detriment of native fish in the river.

“The Government has gone missing on releasing a register of foreign owned water, much of which would be in the drought-stricken Murray-Darling Basin,” Mr Lambert said.

“Water that China would have used to grow cotton, they use here instead, and boost Chinese water security to the detriment of ours.”

Mr Lambert said the register was due to be made public by the end of last year but missed the deadline.

He said he expected Cubbie Station, which was controlled by Chinese textile giant Shandong RuYi, to be “top of the charts” with the right to take more than 450 gigalitres a year from the basin.

Last month it was revealed Shandong RuYi, worth $30 billion, had refused to wind down its 80 per cent stake in Cubbie Station, which is Australia’s largest irrigated cotton property, despite being given more than six years to do so.

Australian Securities and Investments Commission records show it still owns 80 per cent of the station, via a Singapore holding company, despite committing to wind down its stake within three years of its 2012 purchase.

The ATO did not respond to questions from The Advertiser about how many foreigners had registered their water interests, how much water had gone in entitlements and when the register would be made public.

Instead, a spokeswoman said: “The report of registrations for the Register of Foreign Ownership of Water Entitlements has not yet been published”.

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