Thursday, 17 October 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Senator Canavan. How is the Liberal-National government delivering stable and certain water supply for farmers across the country, and how does this contrast to the approach taken by the Queensland Labor government?
I thank Senator McGrath for his question. I know he is a big fan of dams. We on this side all love dams. We love building dams. Dams are good for Australia. Dams are good for our country because they help us protect and plan for our futures. Dams are all about storing water today so that, in the future, we can grow more food, create more wealth, create more jobs and create more opportunity for all Australians. That's why we love dams.
Honourable senators interjecting—
Order! I'm going to ask Senator Canavan to resume his seat. We're nearly there everyone—six minutes to go. Can we at least have it so that I can hear the minister's response? Even with his voice, I was struggling to hear then. Senator Canavan, you're free to continue.
I can well understand why this chamber is so excited about dams. Everybody loves dams. People are even more excited this week because, on the weekend, the government—the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister—announced additional funding, additional investment, for more dams in Australia. They announced $567 million of more funding for dams in New South Wales. We can all see the terrible drought that's occurring in regional New South Wales right now and these investments give farmers hope for the future that we will have water. We will have investment. We will have an expanded agricultural sector that the Minister for Agriculture is working so hard to provide. We will be investing in upgrading the Wyangala Dam—a 10-metre rise on the Wyangala Dam. We will be investing in the Dungowan Dam near Tamworth as well.
It's such a shame that in New South Wales we have a government that are working with the federal government to build this infrastructure that people want in regional communities, while in Queensland we have a government with just as many opportunities—in fact, perhaps more opportunities to grow and develop their water resources—that are reducing the size of dams in Queensland. They're going to let over 100,000 megalitres go from the Paradise Dam and reduce that size of the dam, shrinking opportunities for farmers in the future. On the Rookwood Weir they're complaining that they can't afford it anymore and now they're cutting the size of the Rookwood Weir as well, which will cut off future opportunities for farmers in Central Queensland. We'll stand for dams, this government, because we believe in the future of farming in this nation.
Can the minister outline to the Senate how Queensland drought affected farmers have responded to Labor's plan to downsize Rookwood Weir near Rockhampton while these farmers suffer through extreme drought conditions?
I can respond to Senator McGrath's question because I've been talking to a lot of these affected farmers. I know that the Minister for Agriculture came to Rockhampton recently to talk to them as well. In fact, around 200 farmers, landowners, graziers and concerned citizens of Rockhampton turned out on the streets a couple of weeks ago to complain about the Labor Party's decision to downsize Rookwood Weir. Someone who was there in Queensland was a former head of AgForce Larry Acton. He said:
My property is next to the weir site…and I can tell you right now – not much has happened on the site for years. When Treasurer Jackie Trad announced that the public service were to be given a $1,250 bonus, it was the last straw.
A Duaringa cattle farmer Colin Dunne said:
One minute you look as though you've got access to water, the next minute it's all gone, especially myself because I'm on the tail end of it so if the weir gets lowered I don't get any. My time was wasted looking into it, money spent on it was wasted ... it's of no benefit to me anymore.
And that's because of all the shameful activities of the Queensland government that have reduced opportunities for Mr Dunne and others like him.
The Liberal-National government put funding on the table for Rookwood Weir more than three years ago. What will the real Rookwood Weir, as proposed by the Liberal-National government and supported by the Liberal National opposition in Queensland, mean for farmers in Central Queensland?
We know at length what this will provide to the people of Central Queensland, because it's been talked about for so long. More than 10 years ago the former Premier of Queensland Peter Beattie said that he was going to build the Rookwood Weir by 2011, and we're still waiting in Central Queensland for it. We know from the studies that have been done on this that if we were to build the real Rookwood Weir it would deliver 2,100 jobs, it would double agricultural production in the Fitzroy Basin and it would massively expand the food opportunities for Rockhampton and Central Queensland. We're already the beef capital of Australia in Rockhampton. We'd like to be the food capital as well, but the Labor Party in Queensland are trying to deny that future to the people of Central Queensland, because they've run out of money and they don't prioritise our farmers in Queensland. In fact, today we learned that the Queensland government have enough money to spend $1.65 million on a virtual reality centre for the Cross River Rail project—something that doesn't even exist—while they won't build dams.