TRANSCRIPT: Interview – Prime TV At Inverell NSW, 28 June 2019
Subjects: Water policy.
What is this announcement for dams for regional NSW?
I want to build dams. Certainly I’ve made it crystal clear that the Federal Nationals are going to build dams. In NSW, Queensland - I want to work with the State Governments right around the country to build water infrastructure. As part of this drought, feedback has told us – and we already knew anyway – that we need more water storage infrastructure.
It’s going to rain again. We look forward to that. But when it does rain again we need to store that water, we need to harvest that water and we need to make sure we have it available when the next dry spell comes along.
I met a number of farmers – about 30 farmers – here yesterday on the windswept hill at the local rugby oval. One of the things they told me was that, look, we’re struggling, we’re really doing it tough, but what we want to do is have some long term planning, long term vision. We want more water storage infrastructure.
During the election campaign I announced the National Water Grid, as part of the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund. That National Water Grid is going to take the petty politics out of it. It’s going to use the best available science, with local input – that’s really important that we have local engagement, local stakeholders, telling us what their needs and wants are, what their expectations and demands are. We’re listening to that. We’re going to make sure that the National Water Grid takes the petty politics out of it so that where there’s a project, a viable project that the best available science tells us we could build a dam; heighten, lengthen, strengthen a weir, indeed put down a pipeline, we will do it. The Federal Government will do it.
I’m really delighted that John Barilaro has made his intentions clear too. I’m really pleased that the NSW State Government has given me their priority projects. So I’ll work with Mel Pavey, I’ll work with all the NSW Ministers and the Liberal and Nationals’ Government in NSW. We’ll build water infrastructure. We’ll make a difference.
Why have you waited till the worst drought in living memory to say you will build dams?
The fact is we have been building a lot of water infrastructure. The Federal Government…
…what were those water infrastructure projects?
We’ve announced just in recent times pipelines for Mitiamo in Victoria; we’ve announced the Urannah Dam in Queensland; we’ve announced the Hells Gate, the Big Rocks Weir – we’re getting on with making sure we put pipelines down. We’re making sure they’re looking at such projects as the Rookwood Weir, $176.1 million. But we can’t do it alone. We have to do it with State Governments. There’s that Commonwealth-State co-operation that has to take place. But the State Government has just recently given me their priority projects. I go back to Canberra next week. Parliament resumes next week, and I’ll be looking at those priority projects. I’ll be now obviously working very very closely with the State Government here in NSW, and State and Territory Governments elsewhere, to make sure that we get the right water infrastructure in place.
For too long, State Governments have held the Commonwealth up. Now we’ve been in power for six years and we’ve done a lot of water infrastructure projects. I can name any number – Scottsdale in Tasmania; I named a few before – but we want to get on and build big water infrastructure projects – dams. We’re going to get on and do it. We’re going to do it with the co-operation of the States.
What do you say to Mr Barilaro’s comments saying that I guess the Nationals here in the State level are being stifled by a green ideology and that’s why we haven’t been seeing water infrastructure – what do you say to that?
Well it’s true. Absolutely, what he says is true. We have been stifled by green ideologues in Sydney and elsewhere, determining what they think is right, what they think is best. But the fact is, they like to eat food too. The fact is they need fibre too for their clothing and everything else. Our farmers, our regional farmers, grow the best food and fibre in the world, but they can’t do it without water. So we need to make sure that we take all the petty politics out of it. We need to make sure that we take all the ideology out of it and get on with using the best available science.
What’s the point of voting for the Nats then if they are being stifled and can’t stand their ground?
The fact is we were re-elected in March in NSW. We were re-elected overwhelmingly on May 18 federally. We won all our seats federally. That puts, I think, an end to all of those people saying ‘oh we need to stop, we need to stall, we need to tamper with this, to tamper with that’. The reason why people voted Nationals is they know we build things. We get things done. We make sure that we boost our regions, that we provide jobs, we provide economic opportunity for people who choose to live in the regional areas. They have given us their imprimatur and I think it’s now time for whoever decides they want to lead Labor in NSW in the future – and I dare say – Anthony Albanese and Jim Chalmers and those in Canberra, to make sure that they understand that the people have spoken. The will of the people must now be followed. They need to get out of the way, to help us put through our tax cuts, to help us with our infrastructure projects and programs by voting in the Parliament. That’s what people want. They want unity. They want stability. And they want us to be able to get what they voted for us to do – and we will.