Monday, 15 June 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Cash, the Minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. On 13 November 2019, the majority of coalition senators supported a notice of motion that said:
That the Senate—
… … …
calls on the federal government to take the necessary steps to ensure the construction of a Bradfield type scheme can begin in Queensland as swiftly as possible.
Speaking to this motion, the government stated:
… there is no reason for the Australian government to oppose this motion.
Today the Prime Minister announced plans to fast-track a number of infrastructure projects; yet, despite the government's claimed support, there was no mention of any form of Bradfield scheme. Why have the government chosen to leave the hybrid or new Bradfield scheme—a crucial nation-building project they have expressed their support for—off the Prime Minister's list of essential projects to be fast-tracked?
I thank Senator Hanson for her question and, in particular, for acknowledging the significant announcement that the Prime Minister made today, as I alluded to previously in my answers to questions from Senator Antic, and the bringing-forward of infrastructure projects across Australia to create around 66,000 jobs.
In relation to the Bradfield scheme, I can provide you with the following information. The National Water Grid Authority, which, as you have referred to, commenced operation on 1 October 2019, is working with leading science agencies, including the CSIRO, to determine where and how water resources can be sustainably developed. This forms part of the Australian government's commitment to investing $100 million in bringing together the world's best science to identify opportunities for enhancing water supply and reliability for regional Australia. As part of this work, the authority is considering options for developing large-scale water-harvesting and water-transfer schemes, such as elements of the Bradfield scheme or hybrid versions of the Bradfield scheme, to capture and transport water to both grow the agricultural sector and improve drought resilience. Over the decades since it was first proposed, there have been a number of assessments of the merit of the original Bradfield scheme and more recent variations. It is important that the feasibility of these schemes is now investigated, using the best available contemporary science.
Minister, there has been a feasibility study done on it—by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corp. in 2018. Water security is crucial to all Australians, especially given the horrendous drought that more than 60 per cent of Queensland continues to endure. Why can't the government simply give the people of Australia a firm commitment that the hybrid Bradfield scheme will be added to the Prime Minister's list of projects that will be fast-tracked?
I would refer Senator Hanson to the answer I just gave to the previous question. My understanding is that the Prime Minister announced certain projects today and said there were further announcements to come.
I appreciate that, and I appreciate the water schemes that have actually been put in with the dams. But there has been no real commitment to the hybrid Bradfield scheme, in which water going out to the ocean will actually be brought inland. Minister, the government has been very critical of Queensland Labor's failure to give a clear date on the border opening, so is it safe to say that, because you won't commit to a date to start this project, the Liberal-National party has no plans to build the Bradfield scheme?
Senator Hanson, I will have to reject the premise of your question. As I said in my answer to your primary question, over the decades since it was first proposed there have been a number of assessments of the merits of the original Bradfield scheme and more recent variations. It is important that the feasibility of these schemes is now investigated using the best available contemporary science.