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'All hell broke loose': The strange story behind Joyce, Taylor and #Watergate

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By now you surely know at least the gist of the so-called #Watergate story. In July 2017 a record $79 million of taxpayers’ money was signed off on, without tender, by then water minister Barnaby Joyce for the “water rights” to two Queensland properties owned by Eastern Australia Agriculture, a company of which Joyce’s Coalition colleague and now Energy Minister Angus Taylor was once a director and secretary. That company is wholly owned by Eastern Australian Irrigation, which Taylor co-founded, and is based in the Cayman Islands.

Are you still with me, tree-people? Hang on, it gets better.


There is no suggestion anything illegal has been done a la the original Watergate. Taylor was not a director of either of these companies when the water transaction occurred. But the transaction's lack transparency – and that the deal is of dubious worth in the first place when it is for a possible future collection of water, not existing, and that even then there are real questions as to whether such collected water, available only after flood events , can be released to help farmers and the environment downstream.

Ten days ago Hamish Macdonald, with the help of business journalist Michael West, did a major story on it for The Project to deserved wide acclaim as they shone light where much had been dark, while The Guardian’s Anne Davies has also done extensive work on the story.

Where the story truly exploded in the public domain though was a little over a fortnight ago, and therein lies a tale. At 5.30 pm on April 10 one of the twitterati by the name of “Ronni Salt” – not her true name – posted a Twitter thread containing extraordinary documentation on the whole deal.

All hell broke loose. The original post immediately went viral and journalists who re-tweeted it were served with very strong legal letters by Taylor’s lawyers. Later that night, the tweet disappeared, as did “Ronni........

© The Age