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Wednesday, 15 August 2007
Page: 162


Ms KING (9:49 AM) —As I come from a regional electorate, the issue of water security is top on my list of priorities. Not far behind this issue is the cost of that water. Despite our recent rain, which has been very much welcomed, Ballarat’s water supply is currently sitting at around 11 per cent. If Ballarat were to endure another lean spring and dry summer, it would be absolutely possible that one of Australia’s largest inland cities would run out of water. This is obviously not acceptable. There is only one viable long-term solution on the table: the goldfields super pipe to secure Ballarat’s water supply. The state Liberal Party has tried to push the idea of pumping water from the Lal Lal reservoir, a ridiculous idea, as Lal Lal could only supply Ballarat with at most two weeks of water—hardly a long-term solution.

Last year on 18 October, the Victorian government announced the construction of the goldfields super pipe, with the understanding that the federal government would jointly fund Victoria’s No. 1 water priority project. The pipeline will provide Bendigo and Ballarat with a reliable and secure water supply. Unfortunately, such infrastructure does cost money and someone has to pay for it. The state government has made its contribution and is expecting the Howard government to make an additional contribution of $90 million. If that is not the case, then the funding for that infrastructure will need to be found from local water rates. The state government is concerned about that and so has moved in fact to cap water rate increases in our district to ensure that they can only increase at most by 15 per cent per year. Premier Brumby said yesterday that the state government wanted to cap water bills at no more than double today’s rate at 2012 but the Ballarat region could miss out. The federal government’s failure to fund the goldfields super pipe extension from Bendigo meant Central Highlands Water needed to find alternative funding and increase bills to cope.

Ballarat has the highest water bills in the state, because the Howard government has not yet committed the $90 million to fund the goldfields super pipe. Families are already struggling to cope with record healthcare costs, interest rates, petrol prices and child care. Why does the Howard government now want to increase the pain by increasing our water bills? The Howard government has also clearly not thought through what increasing the cost of water would do to industries in my electorate like MasterFoods and McCain which use large amounts of water. Would it still be to their competitive advantage to stay in the district that potentially has the highest water rates in the state?

I call once again for the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources to fully fund the goldfields super pipe out of the National Water Initiative. If the federal government has an alternative, let us hear about it. If not, he must announce the full $90 million for the goldfields super pipe. Anything less is unacceptable. Despite how the local Liberal Party is behaving about the goldfields super pipe, this is not a game. It is about people and our district’s livelihood and the cost that people are going to be paying for water. The Howard government must fund the $90 million and match Labor’s commitment of $90 million for the goldfields super pipe today.