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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Page: 1338

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (15:59): I would like to add some comments about the answers to questions by Senator Conroy, representing the Prime Minister. It amazes me how, when Prime Minister Gillard announced the election will be on 14 September that she said this will not be a long election campaign, that it will be about governing the country, carrying on with the role of government. If you were to say to anyone that this week in Western Sydney is not campaigning, I think people would laugh at you. I certainly would not say it. I put on Facebook last night, 'This is not a week of campaigning in Western Sydney—yeah, right!' Comments of varying degrees came back saying that this is a political campaign, that this is what next week is about. There is nothing surer. I found it amazing when Senator Conroy said, 'It pays to stay in Western Sydney.' I can just imagine the Prime Minister out in Western Sydney. She could have Senator Cameron as a chauffeur driving her around. I do not know how they would get on together given Senator Cameron's staunch support for former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. This is simply a political stunt and the people of Western Sydney will not be fooled. And today we heard:

The federal government also announced an investigation into raising NSW's Warragamba Dam. The cost of raising the wall is estimated to be $500 million, and federal funding would be contingent on state government backing for the project.

I have no problem with raising the dam wall. I think that is a good idea because we are using six per cent of our water resource in this country, compared to a world average of nine per cent. It was amazing when the coalition discussion paper on building dams went out a couple of weeks ago, when Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, Dr Craig Emerson, said that this is 'policy in chaos'. The Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, Tony Burke, said that the coalition's draft dam policy is 'incoherent' and 'completely wild'. They are very much against building dams. Minister Bill Shorten added, 'It is cheaper for governments and taxpayers to spend money on mitigation for floods as opposed to clean-up costs subsequently.' So we have Minister Shorten supporting increasing the height of Warragamba dam, while ministers Tony Burke, Dr Craig Emerson and Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young say—and what a crazy quote this is—'The only part of the coalition dam plan that was environmental was the word "mental".'

How are we supposed to survive in this county without water? I have travelled much of this big land and thankfully have lived all of my life in rural Australia. Without water, we have nothing. But we now have the irony of all this with the government saying, 'We're going to increase Warragamba dam wall, increase the storage.' I think that is a great thing because we saw a waste of money in desalination plants around the nation, most of them mothballed, as Andrew Bolt said in his column today, when scaremongering Tim Flannery said, 'The dams will never fill.' Go out of Inverell, where I live, to Copeton Dam. It was great to see it overflowing less than two years ago. We know what happened in Brisbane with the floods. Warragamba is releasing water now because of the very heavy and constant rain we have seen for the last couple of years. That is what happens at the end of a drought—it rains. Rain is what breaks a drought, nothing else. But Tim Flannery is scaremongering and saying that the dams will never fill again. I support the increase in the storage capacity of Warragamba Dam because Sydney is a fast-growing area. Those running businesses out in Western Sydney will not be fooled. They know that the cost of doing business has escalated enormously—whether it be carbon tax, the renewable energy target or whatever. They are becoming uncompetitive with the high Australian dollar. They are facing cheap imports. The people who work in those businesses know that, if they cannot make a profit for the business, their jobs are threatened. This visit to Western Sydney by the Prime Minister is simply a political stunt and I do not believe for one second that the people in Western Sydney will be bluffed or fooled. They know what this government has been like. They know what this government has done. Along with many others, including me, they are looking forward to 14 September 2013, election day.

Question agreed to.