Thursday, 20 September 2018
I rise today to clear the record, to put forward the facts and to dispel the myths on a project that has become equal parts promising job-creator and source of frustration. My Rookwood Weir journey started back in 2012, when the coalition water task force visited and documented potential sites for water infrastructure development across the continent. On this list of some 500 sites, Rookwood Weir appeared near the end of the list. This was a project that had been committed to by Peter Beattie five years earlier, when he said Rookwood would be built by 2011. Spoiler alert: it wasn't.
In 2013 we saw the election of the coalition government, and I was elected as the member for Capricornia. I hit the ground running to get to work to advocate for Rookwood. I visited government agency after government agency, to little by little open the eyes of the bureaucracy to a great project that had been somewhat overlooked. By 2015 I had had Rookwood placed on the green and white papers on the future development of northern Australia and the future competitiveness of agriculture. These are two of the most important documents this government has created, real future-proofing stuff.
Of course, here was the first ALP roadblock. Labor and Greens senators on the Joint Standing Committee on Northern Australia tried valiantly to block this, supposedly because (a) people in the bush don't deserve jobs and (b) they didn't want me to get a win for Capricornia. I had been lobbying for this project nonstop for over two years, and I'm quite sure the member for New England was sick of me, but I wouldn't stop. In early 2016 I was fortunate to be able to take the member for New England and then-Prime Minister Turnbull on a flight across the landscape to show what was possible. Again the Labor Party said: 'It'll never happen. It's a bad idea. Landry can't deliver.' But on 25 May 2016 deliver I did. The Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister went to Rockhampton to announce that the federal coalition would not only fund $2 million for a business case to be conducted but put up $130 million for the construction costs—major investment for our region, to deliver not just a construction project but a $1 billion economic boom for the region, unheard of under Labor.
The trouble is that the federal government doesn't build dams or weirs; we have to get the states to do that. This has proved anything but simple. Firstly, Queensland took over 600 days to deliver the business case. During this time, there was a state election, and only the LNP committed to building Rookwood. When the Queensland government finally delivered the business case, it rated very highly—as we knew it would—but the price had blown out to $352 million. We provided the extra $46 million to get Rookwood going. Then they hit us with the operating costs, another unnecessary roadblock. Queensland could have just sold water to cover these operating costs, but no; that would mean Rookwood go ahead. We have received promising news in the last week, but I cannot take those opposite at their word. (Time expired)