My business associates and I had just completed a brisk working lunch and had reluctantly ordered one for the road – despite Uber now being in the market, they still take forever to turn up at 3am – when our discussion turned to water buybacks.
“Could you have ever imagined the profits to be made from selling water, of all things?” Tiffany asked me as we sipped our final triple scotches.
“I know, Tif, I know. Never in my wildest scams, love,” I replied.
“Bloody aqua! Who would have thought? The humble H two bloody O! Which won’t be spoiling this superb 25-year-old Hootmongerie single malt, I can assure you of that!
“Although as a young entrepreneur I did clean up selling cans of fresh Toowoomba air. The markup on those were amazing and I made a motza way back when.
“Sadly I had to close up that business when our supplies of raw stock ran out.”
I watched the three girls over the top of my glass to see if they got the joke. They didn’t.
Shervonne gave my upper leg an appreciative pat and asked: “Do you even know how people have wormed their way into this multi-million dollar water buyback caper in the first place, Morrie?”
I tried to explain: “Well, love. It seems all you need is a bit of land. It must be ancient English common law or some fucking thing but if you throw up some levees or barriers and catch floodwaters as they move across your place, then those waters are legally yours.
“If a government wants that water for further use downstream, like keeping fish alive or other primary producers to dam and sell, they’ve gotta pay top dollar for it. That’s how those two properties in Queensland got $80 million for their stored ‘overland’ water and cleaned up with a $56 million profit.”
Then Rachel-Anne, the only brunette among my business colleagues, asked a question.
“Why doesn’t the government just change the laws and take the bloody water off them if it’s so crucial?” she said.
Strewth, I thought to myself, this is turning into a fucking seminar and I can’t even charge them for it.
“I’ve got no idea, sweetie, no idea at all,” I admitted. “But I guess by doing it this way, millions of dollars can flow back, so to speak, into party coffers for campaigning at elections. Campaigns aren’t cheap, you know, especially for a party that is supposedly broke.
“They’ll need help from all quarters: reef foundations, refugee camp security providers, travel companies and the like.”
We went quiet for a while but then it hit me: there’d be a lot of primary producers out there who would like to get on this uber-rich water wagon but just don’t know the hows, wheres and whys about doing it.
And that’s why they’d need a strategy that only the old Morrie Bezzle can deliver.
“Ladies, let’s order a bottle of something a little bit more special than this swill,” I said, “while we work out the details of a nice little earner that’s just popped into your Morrie’s head.
“You know how a lot of properties have a ‘lock the gate’ sign on their main driveways now?”
They all shook their heads but I just ploughed on. “From now on farms and grazing properties will have my special signs on their gates with a clear and simple message so government officials can see straight up they’ve got water for sale.
“The signs will simply say: CASH in big bold letters. And spelled out underneath: Captured Aqua Supplies Here.
“The signs will go hand in glove with a special marketing kit I’ll sell farmers showing how they go about damming floodwaters at the cheapest cost, how to extract the highest possible price for that water whenever the current water and agriculture minister is at his most pissed, and how to pay no tax whatsoever on the obscene profits from those water sales by chanelling the profits through a Caymen Islands tax haven.
“Of course they’ll also have to trickle a share of the profits through my special offshore account too by way of my commission.”
All three business associates snuggled up to me and Tiffany said: “Morrie, you’re a deadset fucking genius,” as she gave my plums a playful squeeze.
“Those farm yokels will have to pay up front!” That was Rachel-Anne again.
“They sure will, Rach. But here’s the thing, girls, I mean colleagues,” I said. “I want you three to get in on the ground floor of this sweet little money earner.
“This plan will take a lot of time, effort and money to get going, what with all the outback travel I’ll have to do and the printing of those special signs for all those farm gates won’t come cheap. The money will be pouring out before we see our first CASH sign on the front gate of a farmer I’ve conned … I mean convinced….to come on board.
“So let’s leave working out a fair share for the three of you until I have all those upfront costs in hand.
“All I’m asking at this early stage is for you to kick in a few Ks each to my special campaign. You can always top up later as this thing takes off faster than a Year 12’s knickers at Schoolies and we settle on your fair share.
“Just pay the usual way by cheque, made out to the Captured Aqua Supplies Here campaign.
“Or,” and I winked at all three as our Uber finally turned up to take us on to our favorite pole-dancing nightclub, “bugger it, you can save us all time and money by making it out to CASH!”
Morrie Bezzle is general manager of Overland Floe Frozen Water Co. (Alaska), CEO of L’Eau Blow French Mineral Water (Broken Hill) Pty Ltd, and chair of the Morrie Darling Basin Authority.