Thursday, 30 November 2023
I rise before you today with a profound sense of accomplishment, as last week we reached the end of a decade-long endeavour, the completion of the $568.9 million Rookwood Weir.
With the construction of Rookwood Weir being the largest since World War II, this is a monumental achievement with far-reaching implications for the growth and diversification of agriculture, bolstering drought resilience and addressing industrial and urban water requirements of the Gladstone, Capricorn Coast and Rockhampton regions.
The Rookwood Weir stands not only as a symbol of modern engineering but as a lifeline for the agriculture heartland of Central Queensland. Water, the essence of life, is now harnessed to fuel growth and resilience in our communities. The importance of this project extends far beyond the concrete walls of the weir. It reaches into the very fabric of our economy; specifically, into the backbone of our region—agriculture.
As we know, agriculture is the lifeblood of Central Queensland, providing sustenance, employment and economic vitality. However, this critical sector has long grappled with the unpredictable nature of water availability. The Rookwood Weir changes this narrative. It empowers our farmers with a reliable water source, enabling them to plan and invest with confidence. It transforms uncertainty into stability, unlocking the full potential of our agricultural landscape.
Rookwood Weir is a project close to my heart and something I and my fellow colleague Senator Matthew Canavan and former colleague Mr Ken O'Dowd have fought relentlessly for. We have championed for Rookwood Weir to get off the drawing board and made a reality. In fact, the importance of the establishment of Rookwood Weir was so great that former Labor Queensland Premier Peter Beattie saw what a game changer having a dam in this location would be for the economic growth and strength of Central Queensland.
On 27 April 2007, former Premier Peter Beattie made the bold claim that it would be the Labor Party who would build the Rookwood Weir. How wrong could one man be? It was the coalition who saw the potential, and I lobbied successfully to have Rookwood placed on the green and white papers on the future development of northern Australia and the future competitiveness of Australian agriculture. It was the coalition government who would provide $2 million to the Queensland government for the final business case for Rookwood; it was the coalition government who would deliver half of the initial funding for the project, a sum of $130 million, to set the wheels in motion for the Queensland Labor government to begin construction.
The Premier of Queensland and her Labor colleagues were tardy in allocating the necessary funds to initiate the Rookwood Weir project. It took nearly two years before Labor would deliver the remaining funding, during which time costs escalated. To address this cost overrun, the Labor government opted to decrease the height of the weir wall, resulting in a reduction of Rookwood Weir's capacity from 76,000 megalitres to 54,000 megalitres. Yet again, the responsibility fell on the former coalition government to provide an additional $15 million in funding, enabling the elevation of the wall.
This crucial investment resulted in a heightened water yield of 10,000 megalitres, bringing the total water volume to 64,000 megalitres. After many years of fighting state Labor to get this off the ground, the first concrete was poured on the massive weir in September 2021. In the subsequent two years, the project would engage hundreds of local workers, apprentices and trainees from across Central Queensland, bringing economic benefits to numerous small businesses.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that an Albanese government would prioritise additional water infrastructure investment for ensuring agriculture diversity and drought resilience.
The slashing of $7 billion in water infrastructure funding in Labor's initial budget not only deprived us of the essential tools needed for producing the nation's food and fibre but also jeopardised the future of the next generation in agriculture. Nevertheless, despite the reduction in funds for other water projects, Labor was more than ready to cut the ribbon last week on water infrastructure that resulted from the hard work and investment of the former coalition government.
The Nationals stand as the sole force capable of providing water infrastructure and security for Capricornia, despite Labor's attempts to rewrite history. The critical necessity of water infrastructure in Capricornia lies in its pivotal role in supporting agricultural growth, ensuring a sustainable water supply for local communities and fortifying the region against the impacts of unpredictable weather patterns and droughts. The Nationals understand the irreplaceable value of water in securing the prosperity and resilience of Capricornia, and they are committed to delivering the essential infrastructure needed for the region's flourishing future.