Thursday, 12 November 2020
Questions without Notice
Queensland: Water Infrastructure
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Senator Cash. In my home state of Queensland our agriculture industries contribute more than $12 billion to the economy. Without investment in water security, though, we risk the future of agriculture in the regions at a time when we're already navigating the economic impacts of COVID. Can the minister advise the Senate how the Morrison-McCormack government's plan to build dams across Australia is providing leadership on water security issues for rural and regional Australians?
I thank Senator Canavan for his question and acknowledge his passion for his home state of Queensland and also for northern Australia. Senator Canavan, as you would know, the Liberal-National government is getting on with the job of building new water infrastructure to meet the needs of regional Australia and to help make our regions stronger. As Senator Canavan said to me earlier, whilst we are grateful for the recent rains, we need to ensure the security, supply and quality of our water. That is absolutely central to the future of regional Australia, but it is also central to the economic growth of all Australia.
Senators will be pleased to know that in the recent budget the government announced an additional $2 billion in grant funding under the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. This now brings the total commitment of the government to $3.5 billion to build dams, weirs and pipelines. In fact, this additional investment, Senator Canavan, as you know, supports the government's commitment to a rolling 10-year water infrastructure investment program.
The government has now also committed $1.5 billion through the fund to co-fund the construction of more than 20 water infrastructure projects with a total construction value of $2.7 billion. Senator Canavan, you will be pleased to know that the Charleston dam in Far North Queensland—I know you've been to Far North Queensland on a regular basis—will now be finished in the coming weeks. Unlike those on the other side, Senator Canavan does actually know where Far North Queensland is. A further 10 water projects have been contracted and are underway, and more than 50 feasibility projects have been undertaken to assess their viability.
I thank the minister for that answer. Can the minister provide some more detail and an update on the progress of the Rookwood Weir project, a project that could double agricultural production in the Fitzroy Basin?
In Queensland, the Liberal-National government has an investment value of over $516 million dollars for 28 water infrastructure products and studies. In fact, as Senator Canavan has asked, the Rookwood Weir is a $352 million project, and it will generate 200 jobs during construction on the Fitzroy River near Rockhampton.
In relation to the awarding of the contract, a local contractor was awarded the contract for the build. That is a great thing for that local contractor, and I understand that jobs for this fantastic build are actually being advertised as we speak. That is what this investment is all about: supporting these local contractors and creating local jobs. The projected water outcome for Rookwood Weir is 50,000 megalitres of high-reliability water.
During the Queensland election campaign, which just finished, the Labor Party committed to apply to the Federal government for funds to build the Urannah Dam. Is the minister aware of any approach by the Queensland Labor government in relation to the construction of the Urannah Dam project?
Senator Canavan, you may be aware the Deputy Prime Minister wrote to the state water ministers in September and asked them to bring forward their water infrastructure priorities for consideration by the National Water Grid Authority.
Senator Canavan, I'm disappointed to have to inform you that the Queensland government has not yet brought forward projects, including the Urannah Dam project, for consideration. Just in case you didn't hear me, the Queensland government has not yet brought forward projects, including the Urannah Dam project, for consideration. Senator Canavan, maybe they don't appreciate, like you do, the value of the Urannah Dam to Queensland. It is a huge business case; it suggests a water storage capacity of up to 1.1 million megalitres and 675 operational jobs.
Senator Watt interjecting—