Queensland Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham today. Picture: Darren England/AAP
Queensland Natural Resources Minister Anthony Lynham today. Picture: Darren England/AAP

State pegs Barnaby over $80 million water scandal

QUEENSLAND Resources Minister Anthony Lynham says the responsibility for a controversial $80 million Commonwealth water deal struck with a company linked to the Cayman Islands lies with then federal water minister Barnaby Joyce.

Mr Joyce and Prime Minister Scott Morrison have pointed the finger at the Queensland Government over the deal struck with Eastern Australia Agriculture - a company of which federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor was once a director - amid pressure from federal Labor.

A leaked letter shows Dr Lynham had written to Mr Joyce in November 2015 asking to discuss the potential purchase of water from EAA.

Dr Lynham today insisted the State Government's role in the final deal that was struck was purely administrative, involving the transfer of water rights.

He said the final deal was very different to what was proposed in 2015 following initial discussions with Mr Joyce's predecessor Bob Baldwin.

"Our role in 2017 when the Commonwealth Government purchased the overland flow rights for the Eastern Agriculture properties, our role was purely administrative," Dr Lynham said today.

"That was to enable simply the water rights to be transferred to the Commonwealth Government.

"Now what we supported in 2015 was completely different."

He said in 2015 the plan involved the potential purchase of 57,000 megalitres of water as well as two properties.

"Bob (Baldwin) briefed me on our first encounter about these particular properties and how they could provide a substantial amount of water to meet our entitlements in the Murray-Darling Basin system," Dr Lynham said.

"Now late in 2015 the option somehow dropped off the radar, and that coincided with Barnaby Joyce being appointed as water minister.

"He (Barnaby Joyce) purchased 28,000 megalitres of overland flow for $80 million when our desktop valuation showed that he could have purchased 57,000 megalitres for $123 million.

"It was a far better deal back in 2015. We had water in surplus.

"It was purely Barnaby Joyce's responsibility for due diligence and governance and price.

"Our responsibility was administrative, the transfer of those water licences from one entity to another. "

Dr Lynham said the Queensland Government had not opposed the deal, but again insisted its support had only been administrative.

His spokesman said legally the department could not dispute the deal, as it was a federal government responsibility.

Dr Lynham said he would support a royal commission into the water deal should one be called.