Senator Joyce is interviewed on the coalitions new dam policies.
Senate Doors – 14 February 2013
Senator Joyce: You have probably read the front page of the paper and the discussion in regards to the Coalition Dams Taskforce. I think it is really important that we deal with this issue in a positive way. The Australian people want to take the next step. The Australian people want the vision that takes them ahead, that has the capacity to grow the size of our economy to grow areas of opportunity and to create a mechanism to assist us in paying the debt the Labor Party has left behind. Now water is wealth. Efficient storage and usage of water that is environmentally responsible gives our nation a great capacity to take that next step. There is no one here today who is not the benefactor of public works, of dams the capacity to store water. Let’s face it out in the country you can build it all yourself. We should not be scared of taking the next step. One of the greatest engineering feat of this nation is not that far from here, which is the Snowy Mountain Scheme which is something even to this day people use as a legacy that makes them feel proud of who they are as Australians. They bought in so many people who were immigrants who helped to construct this nation and so I believe the Australian people will be ready to go on a, progress a stage in their life with a new government that is going to take us the next step forward. Now I know there will be cynics out there that say that every dam is evil and to anything to do with dams is environmental vandalism. Some of these people you can never make happy. In fact there are probably many in the Greens who want to pull the dams we’ve got down.
What I can say anecdotally is the investment made some time ago in the town I live in St George, for public infrastructure for a dam is now responsible for a community that was built around it. It produces between three-quarters and a billion dollars worth of renewable income every year predominantly through irrigation. Who are the benefactors of that? It is every person who collects tax revenue from that area and all the people who have the jobs in that area. When you look at it, there are 5,000 people who live in that area so it’s a pretty good return for us all.
Question: This is just a pre-election thought bubble.
Senator Joyce: No it’s not. A thought bubble would be something that hasn’t come from due diligence. This has been worked on for nearly two years, travelling the countryside, examining sites over the past couple of years. This is certainly not a thought bubble. This is a key policy. It goes to show the Australian people that whilst we have been in Opposition we can be diligently doing our homework and preparing ourselves for that opportunity if it comes, the honour of government. So if we arrive in government, we have a plan for Australia. We have a vision for Australia. Otherwise it will be the same disaster with different bums on seats. It will be a completely different setup, a different vision and a whole new way to take this nation forward.
Question: (Inaudible) asked about the expense of dam building.
Senator Joyce: You’re dead right. Dams are expensive. Some of these dams the taxpayer won’t have to put their hands in their pockets at all because of the commercial requirements such as the mining industry and industrial use and residential use. We’ve even developed programs to go about financing these. We have the Infrastructure Partnership Scheme which we also drew up which includes work that involved research in Australia and in New York about how bond structures work over there as a mechanism to entice money from the private sector for the purchase and construction of this. This is not a fly by night idea. This is a wealth of information and detailed investigations and homework behind it. Yes some dams are very expensive. To show our authenticity on that, in the previous election in my budget I put aside half a billion dollars as seed capital that could be used for the construction of dams. I hope all these things and the work we have done towards this, the infrastructure partnerships, what we put in the budget last election toward this process shows that there is authenticity towards this, that it is real. It is something that must happen for Australia. What I am encouraged by is that the Australian people want to go on this journey with us. There is, I believe only a minority of people who think in this present economy that starts in Adelaide and finishes in Brisbane is as good as we’ll ever be. We have the next step. We have the potential to grow the wealth. We have a massive market to our north and the best thing of all we have the Australian people with the capacity to do this. I think they’re looking for that vision and I hope in some small way I’m part of this vision.
Question: Are you concerned that this was a policy leak to the media?
Senator Joyce: Leaks are always concerning because they take the agenda away from you in how you deliver what is a lot of homework. You don’t want certain sections to be taken out of a leaked document but of course you can’t avoid that. Leaks from the Coalition are no more or no less than the leaks from other parties over time. I suppose I’m happy that the quantum of this work has been seen by the Australian people. I think it can go without saying that I’m not happy that it has leaked, but there’s nothing I can do about it.
Question: There have been two in a space of a week though. Is this becoming a concern? You still have a long way until the election.
Senator Joyce: I think it’s important to look at the substance of the work and asked: Is the Coalition at work, concentrating on a vision or are they just sitting in their rooms just twiddling their thumbs or are they out and about thinking about the next place for Australia to be. Are they working out how to capitalise on our intrinsic strengths? If we don’t start constructing dams and our population keeps increasing we will run into real problems and our storage capacity per capita is going to be a requirement forced on us in any case.
Question: (inaudible) questioning about the Bradfield Scheme.
Senator Joyce: There has certainly been a lot of information provided to us and there is a wealth of enthusiasm for a scheme that is exceptionally expensive. What we are looking in the whole scope of the plan is building dams in one catchment and moving water to another. A lot of them have been proposed for years. Some of these are already on the books of the Survey General’s Department in a range of states. It’s not as if we walked along gullies and tried to pick the sites ourselves. A lot of this information was already there but has been collated in such a form that this is a list that you can choose from and pick the ones most suited for economic development, most suited for commercial return and building on our vision for taking Australia to the next step.
Question: You have already mentioned that environmental concerns may be raised. Are you aware of any negative impacts upon the environment as a result of this plan?
Senator Joyce: Of course, each dam will be up for environmental study. We don’t want to decimate key environmental assets, but what I might also say is this though, dams by their nature are not just bad for the environment. I’ll give you the classic example of that one of, one of Australia’s biggest dams; Lake Argyle now has two Ramsar Wetlands in it. They weren’t there before the dam arrived. They are there now because they are home to migratory birds.