Tuesday, 12 May 2020
If a week is a long time in politics, in my home state of Queensland it seems a weekend can be even longer. In just over 48 hours, we had three Treasurers in the Queensland Labor government during one of the biggest economic downturns our state has ever faced. When the music stopped, Cameron Dick found himself in the Treasurer's seat. He's going to be faced with a lot of big numbers as the analysts in the Queensland Treasury brief their new boss.
But there's one number I need Mr Dick and his Labor colleagues to hear loud and clear, and that's $2.4 billion. That's the projected negative economic impact to the Bundaberg region over the next 30 years. It is not due to the fallout of a virus and not due to the lockdown but due to the largest infrastructure fail in Australia's history: the failure of Paradise Dam. I'm going to keep raising this issue, because farmers in that region need water security and because people in the Wide Bay Burnett need certainty and, more than ever, need jobs.
This sorry saga began last year when the Palaszczuk Labor government released 105,000 megalitres of water from this dam during one of the worst droughts on record. After much campaigning by Deb Frecklington and the LNP, the Palaszczuk Labor government was finally dragged kicking and screaming to establish an inquiry into how this failure occurred. During the last two months, the commission of the inquiry has heard that crucial construction reports have gone missing—just disappeared! Perhaps even more concerning, the commission also heard evidence that no shear strength testing was carried out after construction to determine whether layers of roller-compacted concrete had bonded. These are extraordinary revelations which need much greater scrutiny, and a final report from the commission was delivered to the Palaszczuk government almost two weeks ago. I'm calling upon Premier Palaszczuk to release that report to the public before any works are started to reduce the dam wall.
Concerned members of the Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers cooperative commissioned Adept Economics to investigate the 30-year impact of permanently lowering the dam by five metres, which is what Labor are proposing. They found the hit to the Queensland economy would be $2.4 billion. I appreciate the safety of the Bundaberg community must be the first priority, and no-one has argued that the dam should not be safe, but it must be returned to full capacity. I say to the Queensland cabinet 3.0: now is not the time to risk thousands of jobs; now is not the time to deliver a $2.4 billion hit to the Wide Bay-Burnett region; now is not the time to put hundreds of businesses at risk. Now is the time to listen to an international expert with more than 50 years experience in geotechnical and civil engineering like Dr Paul Rizzo and consider his report, one commissioned by locals. Now is the time to listen to Deb Frecklington; Colin Boyce, the member for Callide; the member for Bundaberg, David Batt; the member for Burnett, Stephen Bennett; the member for Hinkler, Keith Pitt; and people like Bree Grima from the Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers—to listen to the locals who understand what needs to happen with Paradise Dam.
To those exasperated Queenslanders who are sick of the political games being played in George Street by the factions in the Labor Party, my message is clear: you can stop the musical chairs and stop the games that are being played in government by supporting Deb Frecklington and the LNP on 31 October. You can help rebuild and make sure that Paradise Dam acts as any dam should: full of water and helping the economy grow.