Adjournment Debate – Paradise Dam

Monday, 14 October 2019

Mr PITT: I thank the member for Lilley for opening the door on the Queensland Labor government. One thing I will point out to the member for Lilley is that you can’t complete an electrical apprenticeship as a solar installer. There is simply not enough technical work in that one single operation. As an electrician by trade, I can tell you that that is just a statement of fact.

In terms of the Queensland Labor government, I can tell you what they are doing: they are removing 85,000 megalitres of storage from the Paradise Dam near Bundaberg. This is the newest dam in Queensland. It was opened with much fanfare in 2006 by then Premier Beattie. They went out and one of our local growers, John Russo, said he was ‘ropable at the announcement’ that was made and:

They did it in the dead of night. I saw an email at five o’clock this morning saying they’re dropping the level by five metres, this is just absolute rubbish.

The Queensland Labor government is stealing the wealth of the people of my community—the long-term reliability for infrastructure pieces which are already built. The spin started from there. The original spin from Minister Lynham started as something like: ‘We are doing great things for drought-stricken farmers by providing 110,000 megalitres of water for free.’ It will just happen to be over a 10-week period when they lower this dam to 42 per cent which, in my understanding, is the equivalent of one year’s worth of supply of the already allocated amount. That didn’t run for long before they got kicked about and they changed their mind. It is now an ‘unspecified safety issue’.

Governments—regardless of whether they are a local government, state government or federal government—have a responsibility to the community first and foremost. Forget the politics and political spin. If there is a safety issue with this dam, state what it is. Tell the people what the problem is, tell them what you plan to do about it, tell them how you will fix it and tell them how you will restore the capacity of Paradise Dam. We are not seeing that from the Queensland Labor government.

What we are seeing is more spin. They are now running communication sessions. Once again, I’ll provide a quote from someone who rang me this morning who attended one of these. What he said was that the poor people from SunWater stood at front of the room and got run over by a dozen buses. They didn’t answer the single most important question, which was: what is the issue with the dam? If it needs to be repaired, tell the people that is what is going to happen. This is affecting property values in our region. This is affecting reliability of water supply. This is affecting investment decisions being made right now.

What I’m saying to the Queensland government is that this is the time for transparency. This is not the time to hide things in the shadowy back rooms of whatever happens in Brisbane. Now is the time to be up-front. Tell the community what the problem is and how you plan to fix it, because, right now, they don’t know. Right now, they think it is just all rumours. Right now, they simply do not know what to do.

I live on the river. My house is on the Burnett River. It will be potentially affected if there is a challenge with this dam. We need to know, I need to know and the people I represent need to know what will happen. So I say once again to Premier Palaszczuk: it is time to come clean. It is time to walk up to a camera and tell the people of my community what you are doing and why.

This is the question: why is it important? Quite simply, because our region is now the biggest producer of macadamia nuts in the country. We grow an awful lot of the nation’s avocados. We are the biggest producer of sweet potatoes. This is where the wealth in my community comes from. This is what drives jobs. The people who are making investment decisions are making those decisions based on the reliability of the level of their water supply. They know that in its current state it is over 90 per cent reliable in providing water year on year for crops which grow for a very long term, particularly when you’re talking about tree crops. This is a long-term and significant investment. In fact, when we’re talking about macadamias, most investors don’t even break even until about year seven to eight. This is a lot of money to put on the line, and they are very concerned about what is going on.

I say again to Premier Palaszczuk: 85,000 megalitres of water is wealth. This government has a plan to deliver $100 billion worth of agriculture in this country by 2030. You cannot do that without water. So I say again to Minister Lynham: get out of your office, go and make a statement and tell my community what the problem is with this dam. Don’t say it’s an ‘unspecified safety issue’. Tell us what it is, what you plan to do about it and how it’s going to be fixed. Right now, the proposal looks like we will end up with less water in Queensland, the taxpayer will pay $500 million for new wares and new dam infrastructure and they will miss out, particularly in my community.

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