Adjournment Debate – Australia Day awards and Paradise Dam

Tuesday, 13 February 2024

Mr PITT: Would you believe, Mr Deputy Speaker, that recently it was Australia Day? Around Australia Day our local councils give out awards to citizens, and there were many in both the Fraser Coast Regional Council area and Bundaberg. There were far too many to name, but I do want to call out a couple of them.

The Young Citizen of the Year in Hervey Bay and Fraser Coast was George Rowland. I’ve spoken about George before. George suffers from dyslexia, and he’s spent a lot of time getting support services into local schools, including the one that he attends. I think the award is a great reflection of the work George has done for the community.

Brian Taylor was Volunteer of the Year at Fraser Coast. Brian is a very well-known local, particularly for his work at the Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum. He’s been a long-term volunteer there, and I’ve met him a number of times.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I’ll declare an interest when it comes to the awarding of Citizen of the Year in Bundaberg to Craig Holden. Back when we were both thinner, younger and better looking—although I think Craig is probably still all of those things—we shared a house at university. I think the best way to describe Craig’s win is in the words of his wife, Kristine. Kristine put up a post on Facebook, and I’d like to read it. She wrote:
Australia Day 2024 “Citizen of the Year” award for Craig. He’s being very humble but he has dedicated and volunteered a large portion of his life/free time to the lifesaving community locally, state wide and nationally. He will never see what he does as anything special but when you start on this journey as a 7 year old then pass on your passion for the next … years you truly are deserving of “Citizen of the Year” not just this year but every year.

Kristine goes on to say that she has been awarded ‘2024 domestic goddess’ and that she is humbled to accept this award for her outstanding mowing skills. She thanks her husband, Craig, and says she is looking forward to her framed certificate. On behalf of the people of Hinkler, I sent a thankyou card to Kristine and awarded her the domestic goddess award, and of course I sent one to Craig and others. Congratulations to them both. They’re both really well-known in local surf lifesaving circles. The entire family, in fact, including their kids and their parents, have been heavily involved for a long time. It’s a very well-deserved award.

To move on to more serious matters, the debacle surrounding Paradise Dam, near my home town of Bundaberg, is an absolute outrage. The fact is that this dam now won’t be repaired, and the suggestion is to build a new wall because that’s the engineering requirement. In fact, it’s suggested that they have to go through all the approval processes again. Yet the plan, when you look at statements from Sunwater and others, is to build the wall some 70 metres in front of the existing one. That’s on the existing apron, from what I can recall. How is that different? The dam will have the same profile and the same holding capacity and will cover the same footprint. I don’t get that at all.

I’m concerned, as are the people I represent, about what happens to the money. We committed, with then Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, the member for New England, $600 million towards this project because it is critical for water security in my region. I wrote to the minister. I received a response from the acting branch head of water grid infrastructure investment. In that response there’s a very concerning paragraph. It says: ‘The government is focused on improving water security for all Australians, particularly in regional areas such as Bundaberg, while being economically responsible and still protecting the environment and our cultural heritage.’

What difference will it make if it’s the same dam with the same footprint, the same height and the same amount of water? What possible other outcome could you have? They go on to say, ‘It’s a fundamentally different project than the Australian government committed to, so
before any funding decisions are made the Australian government will need to carefully consider all available information provided by the Queensland government, noting no proposal to construct a new dam wall has been brought forward to date.’ It has been three years—three years!—since there was a decision made, and we now have correspondence from the minister’s department effectively suggesting that there’s no money. The people in my region will be watching this very closely, and we’ll be watching the next budget to see if that $600 million
disappears to something else, because it absolutely should not. It was a solemn promise, and I recall the then
opposition committing to it.

For the record, I seek leave to present this letter so that the people of my electorate are aware of it and they know what it says.

Leave granted.

Mr PITT: I thank the House

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