House debates

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Questions without Notice


3:32 pm

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Will the Deputy Prime Minister update the House on how a strong economy enables the government to deliver the infrastructure that regional Australia relies on? Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware of any risk to our regions from different approaches?

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Flynn for his question. It's a good one. The Liberals and Nationals believe in building dams. And, certainly with the summer that we are experiencing at the moment, with the excess of water in the north of Queensland and those devastating floods contrasting very starkly with the dry areas of the Murray-Darling Basin and elsewhere throughout South Australia and throughout Tasmania, we do need to build more dams. We need to get on with the job of flood mitigation and we need to get more on the job of storing water for those dry times. I was in the member for Maranoa's electorate just recently. We looked at a very good site—the Emu Swamp site—where, potentially, we could build a dam that would increase agriculture. We're getting on with the job. SunWater is progressing preconstruction activities with the Rookwood Weir, in which the federal Liberals and Nationals have invested $176.1 million. That's in the member for Capricornia's electorate, west of Rockhampton. It is a tremendous project. We'll start building that during the 2019 dry season. A billion dollars worth of increased agricultural production—that's what Rookwood Weir will do. But, further than that: 2,100 jobs. The members for Flynn and Capricornia have fought hard for that. They listened to their constituents and, more than that, they have delivered.

When it comes to the member for Flynn, he listened to his constituents when they talked about the North and South Burnett regional feasibility study. That's why the Liberals and Nationals have invested $2 million in that. It's something that he fought hard for, it's something that he delivered, and it has tremendous local support. The North Burnett mayor, Rachel Chambers, says, 'Through Ken's hard work, North and South Burnett will benefit immensely, from paddock to plate, through the feasibility study.' And the mayor is absolutely right. Kristy Frahm, the chief executive officer of the Burnett Inland Economic Development Organisation, said, 'Congratulations and well done to everyone involved. We can't wait to see these projects progress.' And progress they will, thanks to the additional half a billion dollars—$500 million—in the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. That's what we've put on the table.

But I'm asked what stands in the way. I'm looking at what stands in the way. What stands in the way is those opposite who do not believe in building dams, those opposite who do not believe in the future drought fund. We've put $3.9 billion on the table to make Australia more resilient when it comes to the next drought. But we got this press release, last night, from Labor. The titles on the press release, quite frankly, are longer than the words in it—not worth the paper they're written on. They do not believe in dams. They do not believe in protecting Australia from future droughts.