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 havent 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. Theres a Drought Future Fund of $5 billion, that money isnt available until July 1 next year. Theres a Drought Response Fund for $4 billion that money is not available the legislation is stuck in a Senate committee. So, I dont know where they get seven out of that, I make nine out that. I dont think these its one program after another, no-one seems to know whats 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 its needed. Thats 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 Ministers 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, thats 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. Nothings 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, thats two.
The McAllister irrigation district modernisation thing, which is around the Gippsland, thats not dam thats about modernisation of existing channels, and tunnels, and pipes and so on. So South West Loddon Rural Water Supply Project, thats in northern Victoria, thats a pipeline thing not a dam. Theres the Sunraysia Modernsiation Project, thats also in Victoria, thats not a thats a modernisation of three kilometres of channels. Its not a harvesting proposal. Theres the northern Adelaide irrigation scheme, thats for recycled water. Thats not a dam. Theres the Mclaren Vale treated water storage, thats another thing. Ill give it a tick and call it storage a dam, its only for 600 mega litres, but thats for recycled water. The ninth one was the Killarney water scheme well thats half way between port Lincoln and Port Augusta, and thats about mains water. Its not storage, or harvesting.
The Warwick water recycling project is a recycling project, its not a dam, and that was paraded as a dam. Theres the Mareeba Denbula water supply scheme. It is a modernisation scheme its not a brand new scheme to harvest water. Theres the Nogoa Mackenzie Water Supply Scheme, which up there in central Queensland thats a modernisation program. Its not a new program to harvest water.
Theres the Scottsdale Irrigation Scheme in northeast Tasmania where the Rivulet Dam is a component of it, but theres no plans as to when that will start. I suppose I can give that half a tick. So, thats three and a half that were up to. Theres the Dungowan Dam. Well thats a dam, but theyre only increasing the capacity. Its not a new dam. Theres the Rookwood Weir which at least on the Fitzroy is a water storage thing, but theyll be nothing done at least until 2020.I suppose we can give that a tick. In Tasmania theres a thing called the Tasmanian Irrigation Tranche, its been announced as a dam its nothing of the kind. Theres the East Grampians Water Supply Project in Victoria, thats not a dam. Not storage. Thats piped water. The eighteenth project is a Darren Chesters special in his electorate. McAllister Irrigation Scheme its not a dam. Its not harvesting water, its a modernisation plan.
And the Big Rocks Weir, off Hells Creek Hells Gate Dam in north Queensland, well, its been in the planning stages for three decades. Its just been mentioned, they drop it every time theyre talking about a dam, and the Emu Swamp dam at last with Stanthorpe and an awful mess theyve agreed to the Emu Swamp dam. No shovels in the ground, and not timeline for construction. Now, weve 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 hes released a statement of 21 dams and then nothing of the kind. So, we couldnt get the Prime Minister. Weve got Joel Fitzgibbon on the line. Hes the Shadow Minister. Joel, good morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON:Great to be with you, Alan.
JONES:Are we all fools, are we? Were 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 hes spending $7 billion on drought, and we all know this not to be true. So, I dont know who hes fooling, hes certainly not kidding the farmers who know that there isnt 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, hasnt done over the course of the last six years. That release, that report should be released, and it should be released pronto.
JONES:And youve asked those questions and theyve told you they may release it. Its 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 its not favourable to the Government.
FITZGIBBON:Exactly. We had to use a special provision in the Senate to try and procure both Barnaby Joyces report which we now know doesnt exist, and Major-General Stephen Days report, and theyre hiding behind Cabinet secrecy. And again, what could possibly be in that report which contrary to the public interest if released? I cant imagine. Im sure you cant, Alan, and its a joke, and they should release that today so we can have an honest conversation.
And on dams, you know, theyve been saying for six years theyre going to build dams, and of course what theyve done by doing so is raise false hope, and they havent been able to deliver
JONES:Yes, thats right. Of course youre the member youre the member for that wretched magnificently productive but wretchedly drought destroyed Hunter Valley. Theres 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 dont need this were 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 whats that shire in Victoria?
FITZGIBBON:M-O-Y-N-E. Its 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 dont need drought funding.
JONES:Alright, leave it with me. You keep at it, well keep at it. Well get there, but oh dear, dear, dear. As you say, singleton doesnt get anything, Hunter Valley, Walgett nothing in it for them, and to announce 21 the headline came to me from the Prime Ministers office 21 dam projects, and nothing of the kind. Well keep at it and some answers. Joel thank you for your time.
FITZGIBBON:Good on you, Alan.