The Albanese Government has surprised no one with its contradiction in promoting market transparency while practicing opacity in its water buyback schemes. This comes amidst the inquiry into supermarket pricing and the Governments own questionable practices in water market transactions.
Deputy Leader of the Nationals and Shadow Minister for Water and Emergency Management, Senator Perin Davey, has highlighted the inconsistency in the government’s approach, given the lack of detailed information in the latest water buyback round and the potential breach of market rules and legislation by the Minister for Water, Tanya Plibersek.
“The Albanese Government, having been dragged to the issue has finally requested the ACCC to investigate supermarket pricing, yet in the water portfolio has done all it can to manipulate the water market by failing any transparency benchmark,” Senator Davey said.
“The recent ‘Bridging the Gap’ water buybacks, lack any transparency around prices paid per megalitre, how much was purchased, entitlement type and volume, raising questions not only on the integrity of these transactions, but also whether the Government would be in breach of the water legislation passed at the end of last year or State based market reporting requirements.
“The information released about the $55.5 million water buyback gives us no insight into the price per megalitre or the total megalitres recovered and has failed miserably when it comes to market participants having good access to price discovery and real-time reporting of trades which is meant to be the centre pieces of the new water market rules as recommended by the ACCC review into water trading,” Senator Davey said.
Senator Davey said it was hypocritical for the Water Minister, Tanya Plibersek to be claiming to crack down market manipulation and ‘cowboys’ in the water market yet is deliberately hiding key price information from the market.
“It’s now obvious the biggest cowboy in the water markets is the Minister for Water and her department.
“By demanding sellers sign non-disclosure contracts the Government is deliberately hiding the prices it has paid from the market.
“If anyone else acted like the Minister and her Department they would be in breach of the market disclosure rules.
“The Minister has already been referred to the Inspector-General of Water Compliance for breaching the existing water market rules in the Basin Plan, her latest attempt to withhold key information from the water market is an appalling breach of faith.
“The Minister for Water’s actions, which may breach the intent of the new water trading laws, certainly contradict her own calls for greater transparency.
“The NSW Government also has questions to answer as to why they have not reported the trades on their water registers.
“We know from the AusTender website the government has struck contracts worth over$55 million and the total value of the contracts, yet the NSW Government has not updated its trade registers.
“The ACCC should investigate whether any state or Commonwealth agencies are breaching either trade disclosure rules or are involved in any insider trading and are deliberately manipulating the water market.”
Senator Davey said it is vital for maintaining fair competition and market integrity, that the ACCC immediately investigate and provide a preliminary report within the next month.