Senate debates

Tuesday, 11 February 2020



8:14 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I remind Australians that 112 years ago a young poet composed words that were inspired by a love of our beautiful but harsh country, words that were free of late 20th century pseudoscientific tyranny. Let me recite one stanza of her poem:

Core of my heart, my country!

Her pitiless blue sky,

When sick at heart, around us,

We see the cattle die –

But then the grey clouds gather,

And we can bless again

The drumming of an army,

The steady, soaking rain.

These words in 1908 from Dorothea MacKellar's 'My Country' once again echo the sentiments of our nation. We are seeing glorious rain falling in many drought affected areas. Record rain is falling in parts of the east coast. Social media, though, is alive with everyday Australians asking one simple question: why is this rain not going into dams?

We used to build dams, so much so that in the year 2000 we had 4.3 megalitres of dam storage for every person. In 2019 this was down to 3.2 megalitres and by 2030 it will be down to 2.7 megalitres. Our near permanent water restrictions have resulted from this failure to build dams by successive Liberal, National and ALP-Greens governments. This makes no sense. We have the locations for new dams. The feasibility study for the Big Buffalo Dam was approved in 1965. The Victorian government bought the land 20 years ago. The plans were completed, the bulldozers were ready to go and then—nothing. Big Buffalo will increase Lake Buffalo from 24 gigalitres to 1,000 gigalitres—over 40 times. This water could be used to provide water security to our hardworking farming communities in northern Victoria. Instead, we have Victorian Premier Andrews having a let-them-eat-cake moment declaring that 'building dams will not make it rain'. What a stupid thing to say. It is raining and much of that rain is just running to waste.

In New South Wales, under pressure from One Nation and public opinion, the New South Wales government has announced start dates for the Wyangala and Dungowan Dam extensions. This will add 650 gigalitres to New South Wales water storage, the first new construction of a catchment dam since 1987. The New South Wales government has also announced a feasibility study into a dam on the Upper Mole River in the Border Ranges near Queensland. I look forward to the incoming government in Queensland honouring its promise to build dams by working with Premier Berejiklian to deliver the Mole River dam for Queensland and New South Wales residents.

Separately, I call on Premier Berejiklian to cancel the new Menindee Lakes scheme. This scheme is monstrous; it is madness. This plan will destroy the Menindee Lakes, a magnificent wetland, often called the 'Kakadu of the south'. Draining the Menindee Lakes will destroy farming from Menindee all the way down to Wentworth. This scheme will permanently dry up the Lower Darling, except for rare flood events. This will mean the end of fish kills in the Lower Darling because it will mean the end of fish in the Lower Darling. Our water plan will save the Menindee Lakes while restoring water to farmers and communities of the Lower Darling.

As I travel around rural Australia listening to Aboriginal river tribes, I often hear the loss of traditional water use has decimated their communities. The very high offending rates, the loss of hope, the theft of their future are tragedies that could have been avoided. One Nation's Water for Life weir project calls for the raising or replacement of town weirs in rural and regional Australia so each community will have access to five years of potable water. This will return life to rural communities.

In my home state of Queensland, One Nation will build a visionary water and hydro-electricity scheme called the Bradfield. The Burdekin, Fitzroy and Tully rivers draw huge quantities of water down to the coast and out to sea. The elevation and geography of the area allows for a hydro-electricity project to rival the Snowy Mountains scheme. The Bradfield scheme was first proposed in the 1930s by Australia's leading engineer, Dr John Bradfield. His basic concept was, and remains, strong. This scheme has been questioned and certainly the original format is not one we could consider today. The shortcoming though was environmental, not engineering. One Nation proposes a modern Bradfield scheme to create a new agricultural zone in North Queensland that will provide billions in export earnings and thousands of jobs secured by a reliable water supply, with no environmental cost. One Nation will end the war on dams.