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Wednesday, 12 August 2009
Page: 75


Mr JOHN COBB (9:30 AM) —I continue to be staggered—actually amazed—by state Labor sending water bills to 600-odd farmers in my electorate for water they are not getting. The Lachlan River users are on zero allocation yet face being charged for water licences. The government stands to make more than $2¼ million if the charges go ahead. Nowhere else do you hear of someone being charged for nothing. When will the Rudd government intervene in this unbelievable situation and tell its state Labor mates to stop slugging drought ravaged farmers for something they cannot deliver? This is the fourth year in a row that farmers have experienced zero water allocations. Since 2002 there have been six years of no water allocation. The license fees have been raised twice, so we know that the government can do it. A major dam in my electorate, Wyangala Dam, is at 6.9 per cent capacity. Based on that, it will be a long time before general security river water users are given access to any water, yet they are still being asked to pay up. We need the fees to be suspended or waived until there is water available. The Prime Minister, Minister Burke and Minister Wong must act on this blatant cash grab and pull their state mates into line.

I would like to bring to the attention of the House a situation facing the Parkes Shire Council in my electorate. The Parkes shire was one of the hardest hit councils with its investment portfolio in the wake of the financial crisis. They have written off one investment worth $2.8 million and, based on current valuation, face a devaluation of $10 million in portfolio investments. The council has a very serious situation with regard to its airport runway. Two million dollars is urgently needed for work to rebuild that runway because the subpavement is failing, making it difficult for heavy aircraft. Council cannot afford the $2 million needed for the work, and we need to know what help might be available for them. Several months ago council put an application in for grant money through the jobs fund but are yet to hear anything. This is an important regional airport both for Parkes and for nearby regional centres such as Forbes and Condobolin. Last year some 35,000 passengers used this airport.