Barnaby Joyce watergate buybacks
Barnaby Joyce and Angus Taylor (Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

Over the Easter long weekend, with the election campaign on brief hiatus, news emerged of a controversial water deal between the government and a Cayman Islands-based company with prior links to energy minister Angus Taylor. Crikey breaks down everything you need to know about the scandal which has been quickly dubbed "watergate". 

The basics

In 2017, the government made a $79 million water purchase from a company called Eastern Australia Agriculture (EAA). Deals like this are a key part of the administration of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (MDBP), which involves the government buying back water in the region from irrigators which it then redistributes in order to improve efficiency and sustainability. But this particular transaction has come under scrutiny for a few reasons.

Firstly: it was a negotiated buyback, meaning it happened without an open tender process. EAA is a subsidiary of Eastern Australia Irrigation (EAI) which is based in the Cayman Islands (a territory known as a tax haven with little corporate transparency). Secondly: Energy Minister Angus Taylor was a co-founder and director of EAI before he entered parliament. EAA donated $55,000 to the Liberals before the 2013 election.