Subjects: Dams; Drought Policy
ALAN JONES: Here were all sorts of policies being announced – an additional $100 million in drought relief funding; $33 billion to restart the mothballed Drought Community Support initiative that gives $3000 to eligible households; 13 councils get $1 million each for local projects; $50 million towards expanding and simplifying Farm Household Allowance – which is where, you know, you apparently pay farmers some money to help them pay the bills, but farmers I speak to haven’t seen any of this; and then they say this is on top of $7 billion set aside in drought relief funding. Well, $7 billion – these things just keep on being announced. There’s a Drought Future Fund of $5 billion, that money isn’t available until July 1 next year. There’s a Drought Response Fund for $4 billion that money is not available – the legislation is stuck in a Senate committee. So, I don’t know where they get seven out of that, I make nine out that. I don’t think these – it’s one program after another, no-one seems to know what’s happening.
There are only two things that matter in drought relief; one is the farm, the other is the farmer. On the farm you have to keep stock alive, that means simply find out where the fodder is, find out where the water is and pay the freight to get it to where it’s needed. That’s what farmers want, and the other thing is for the farmer to get money in his pocket so he can pay the service station where he gets his petrol, pay the butcher where he gets his meat, pay the news agent where he gets his newspaper, pay the chemist where he gets his medicine. This stuff, instead, is drowning in bureaucracy red tape and paper filling.
Then, I was – just arrived in Tokyo. Paul and my team told me that the Prime Minister had announced 21 dam projects, and I said, “21 dam projects? Can you send me the list?” So, it took us a while. We got a list form the Prime Minister’s office, and I got the 21 dam projects. The first one in northern Victoria – Mitiamo dam project is a modernising of an existing system. Forget it, that’s not a dam project. There is a mile up Wellington dam, west of Perth, and that is a dam and construction will begin next year. Nothing’s happened yet, but that at least is a dam. The Southern Forest irrigation scheme is to build a concrete weir, but there are no dates as to when this will start. I keep saying, “Where are the shovels in the ground?” So, that’s two.
The McAllister irrigation district modernisation thing, which is around the Gippsland, that’s not dam – that’s about modernisation of existing channels, and tunnels, and pipes and so on. So South West Loddon Rural Water Supply Project, that’s in northern Victoria, that’s a pipeline thing – not a dam. There’s the Sunraysia Modernsiation Project, that’s also in Victoria, that’s not a – that’s a modernisation of three kilometres of channels. It’s not a harvesting proposal. There’s the northern Adelaide irrigation scheme, that’s for recycled water. That’s not a dam. There’s the Mclaren Vale treated water storage, that’s another thing. I’ll give it a tick and call it storage – a dam, it’s only for 600 mega litres, but that’s for recycled water. The ninth one was the Killarney water scheme – well that’s half way between port Lincoln and Port Augusta, and that’s about mains water. It’s not storage, or harvesting.
The Warwick water recycling project is a recycling project, it’s not a dam, and that was paraded as a dam. There’s the Mareeba Denbula water supply scheme. It is a modernisation scheme – it’s not a brand new scheme to harvest water. There’s the Nogoa Mackenzie Water Supply Scheme, which up there in central Queensland – that’s a modernisation program. It’s not a new program to harvest water.
There’s the Scottsdale Irrigation Scheme in northeast Tasmania where the Rivulet Dam is a component of it, but there’s no plans as to when that will start. I suppose I can give that half a tick. So, that’s three and a half that we’re up to. There’s the Dungowan Dam. Well that’s a dam, but they’re only increasing the capacity. It’s not a new dam. There’s the Rookwood Weir which at least on the Fitzroy is a water storage thing, but they’ll be nothing done at least until 2020.I suppose we can give that a tick. In Tasmania there’s a thing called the Tasmanian Irrigation Tranche, it’s been announced as a dam – it’s nothing of the kind. There’s the East Grampians Water Supply Project in Victoria, that’s not a dam. Not storage. That’s piped water. The eighteenth project is a Darren Chesters special in his electorate. McAllister Irrigation Scheme – it’s not a dam. It’s not harvesting water, it’s a modernisation plan.
And the Big Rocks Weir, off Hells Creek – Hells Gate Dam – in north Queensland, well, it’s been in the planning stages for three decades. It’s just been mentioned, they drop it every time they’re talking about a dam, and the Emu Swamp dam at last with Stanthorpe and an awful mess – they’ve agreed to the Emu Swamp dam. No shovels in the ground, and not timeline for construction. Now, we’ve asked the Prime Minister to come on the program to tell me where are the shovels? And to be able to answer the questions that he’s released a statement of 21 dams and then nothing of the kind. So, we couldn’t get the Prime Minister. We’ve got Joel Fitzgibbon on the line. He’s the Shadow Minister. Joel, good morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON: Great to be with you, Alan.
JONES: Are we all fools, are we? We’re treated as such.
FITZGIBBON: Well, your research is absolutely spot-on, and farmers and drought affected rural communities are feeling very, very disappointed this morning. The first thing the Government needs to do, Alan, is to start being honest with the Australian community. Scott Morrison recklessly runs around the country claiming he’s spending $7 billion on drought, and we all know this not to be true. So, I don’t know who he’s fooling, he’s certainly not kidding the farmers who know that there isn’t any money coming to them. The second thing he needs to do, Alan, if he really wants to be honest and transparent with the Australian people, is to release the report of Major-General Stephen Day, the Drought Coordinator.
Now, why would they deny the Australian community access to the report? You know, it leaves one feeling suspicious that the report is critical of what the Government has done – or, indeed, hasn’t done over the course of the last six years. That release, that report should be released, and it should be released pronto.
JONES: And you’ve asked those questions and they’ve told you they may release it. It’s got to go to Cabinet, or everywhere else. So, at the end of the day you can only, as you say, come to the conclusion that it’s not favourable to the Government.
FITZGIBBON: Exactly. We had to use a special provision in the Senate to try and procure both Barnaby Joyce’s report which we now know doesn’t exist, and Major-General Stephen Day’s report, and they’re hiding behind Cabinet secrecy. And again, what could possibly be in that report which contrary to the public interest if released? I can’t imagine. I’m sure you can’t, Alan, and it’s a joke, and they should release that today so we can have an honest conversation.
And on dams, you know, they’ve been saying for six years they’re going to build dams, and of course what they’ve done by doing so is raise false hope, and they haven’t been able to deliver…
JONES: Yes, that’s right. Of course you’re the member – you’re the member for that wretched – magnificently productive – but wretchedly drought destroyed Hunter Valley. There’s nothing here for the Hunter Valley.
FITZGIBBON: And on Friday they announced these additional shires to receive this Drought Communities Program funding which, as you said, they closed down last year. I mean, they were closing these programs down, Alan. As modest as they are, they can be of some assistance, and yet on Friday when they added new towns – reopened the program and added towns – they left the Singleton Shire off, and yet they gave Moyne Shire in south-west Victoria $1 million. As you know the Mayor down there is saying, “Why are you giving this to us? We don’t need this we’re not in drought, people further north need it much more than we do,” and Singleton, in my electorate, is one of those towns which has been affected by drought…
JONES: Which is that Shire in Victoria? Joel, Joel – what’s that shire in Victoria?
FITZGIBBON: M-O-Y-N-E. It’s down around…
JONES: Yes, yes. Right.
FITZGIBBON: And you know, Alan, I usually go for incompetence over conspiracy, and I hope that is at least the, you know, best worst option. But, there are a number of towns that have missed out, all of which are represented by Labor members – me and Mike Kelly in the Eden-Monaro, in particular – and yet National Party seats like - held by Dan Tehan are getting drought funding in towns where, again, the Mayor says they don’t need drought funding.
JONES: Alright, leave it with me. You keep at it, we’ll keep at it. We’ll get there, but oh dear, dear, dear. As you say, singleton doesn’t get anything, Hunter Valley, Walgett – nothing in it for them, and to announce 21 – the headline came to me from the Prime Minister’s office – 21 dam projects, and nothing of the kind. We’ll keep at it and some answers. Joel – thank you for your time.
FITZGIBBON: Good on you, Alan.