Auditor General Clears Angus Taylor in Watergate Affair
When Tony Abbott won the election in 2013 one of the star recruits to the Coalition government was Angus Taylor. Taylor was the ultimate example of male privilege. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth from distinguished lineage. His parents owned one of the most historic properties in the Monaro region and his grandfather, Sir William Hudson, was the Chief Engineer and the Commissioner of the Snowy Mountains Scheme.
Taylor was educated at The Kings School at Parramatta and Sydney University. He graduated with a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Economics. He won the university medal in economics. He was also a star athlete and won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford where he gained a Master of Philosophy in economics.
On his return to Australia, he joined McKinsey's. While working there as a management consultant he established the giant agribusiness Fonterra for the New Zealand dairy farmers. He left McKinsey's to work at Port Jackson Partners where he gained experience in the resource and energy sectors. He also established an agribusiness ‘Growth Farms’ with his brother. This company owns some of the most valuable farming properties in Australia.
Angus Taylor lives near Goulburn and is married to one of the leading barristers at the NSW bar. He is also a world champion triathlete.
It is easy to see why he has become a prime target for Labor and the Greens. He has been attacked by them for allegedly circulating a fraudulent letter accusing Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, of exorbitant travel expenditure and has also been accused of interfering in environmental protection monitoring for his own financial advantage.
More recently, at the time of the last election, he was accused of corruption in relation to water buybacks in a set of allegations that became known as Watergate.
The allegations arose from water buybacks that occurred in 2017 from a company EAA that Taylor had advised prior to his election to parliament in 2013. The purchase was authorized by the then water minister Barnaby Joyce, who endorsed the purchase by closed tender before any guidelines had been put in place. The involvement of Angus Taylor and Barnaby Joyce was enough to get Labor, the Greens and the cross-benchers, screaming about corruption and demanding the establishment of an Independent Commission Against Corruption to investigate the matter.
After the election, the new water minister, David Littleproud, did the sensible thing and got the Auditor-General to investigate all water buybacks from 2008 on.
The Auditor-General released his report last week and it found there was no wrongdoing by anyone but that the Department of Agriculture had failed to ensure value for money by getting more than one tender in the case of some buybacks.
"The ANAO confirms that all of the strategic water purchases made by the department were at or below independent market valuations and that there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing," Water minister Keith Pitt said in a statement. "However, the report is critical of some aspects of the department's administration of the purchases, and I have directed officials to take immediate steps to address those issues."
In the case of the controversial buyback from EAA the company advised by Angus Taylor, the Commonwealth Environment Water Holder, Jody Swirepik, who manages the water recovered under the Murray Darling Basin Plan, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age good rainfall in February and March had delivered 90 billion litres of water to Narran Lakes, enough to restore vegetation and potentially support bird breeding next year.
Of that 90 billion litres, 32 gigalitres came from the Eastern Australia buyback.
"This is the most water to reach the Narran Lakes since 2012. We are thrilled to see nature gradually bouncing back to life in such an important part of Australia," Ms Swirepik said.