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Thursday, 5 December 2013
Page: 1791

Pentland Irrigation Scheme

Mr KATTER (Kennedy) (14:15): My question is to the Treasurer. It has been officially announced that the Treasurer has been accorded the highest of appellations, the title of honorary North Queenslander. In light of this august title and its obligations, and in the spirit of Christmas, can the minister assure his fellow North Queenslanders that the self-funded, mighty Pentland irrigation scheme—$1,000 million annually in ethanol, electricity and stockfeed, plus a power station—shall continue to receive the strongest of Treasury and government support?

Mr HOCKEY (North SydneyThe Treasurer) (14:15): I am honoured to become a North Queenslander. I did not know, however, that there was going to be an entry tax of a billion dollars for a Pentland project! But there is no doubt that it is only the coalition that cares about North Queensland. I know the member for Kennedy cares about North Queensland from the numerous occasions I have been there and the numerous occasions he has bitten my ear off. From the meetings I have had with him and various others in North Queensland, I know that the north of Australia has the capacity to become the engine room of the Australian economy in the 21st century. There is no doubt about that and it is something the Prime Minister has embraced. Our commitment is reflected most immediately in the fact that, under the free trade agreement announced by the Prime Minister today, sugar exported from Australia to Korea will have no tariffs on it. That is a huge win for North Queensland and a huge win for Australia. So we are delivering the goods. In relation to the particular project the member for Kennedy asked about, I defer to the Deputy Prime Minister and ask him to add to the answer.

Mr TRUSS (Wide BayDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development) (14:17): I join the honourable member for Kennedy in congratulating the Treasurer on becoming an honorary North Queenslander.

Mr Bowen: On a point of order, Madam Speaker: I am concerned that the Deputy Prime Minister has bullied the Treasurer away from the dispatch box.

The SPEAKER: There is no point of order. It is perfectly in order to share an answer.

Mr TRUSS: With the honourable member for Herbert, I was in Townsville last week and met with MITEZ to talk about the study that is being implemented to look at irrigation potential in North Queensland. We received reports about the progress that is being made in identifying suitable land to grow sugar and other produce under irrigation. In April, the member for Kennedy announced a $2½ million study, the funding for which was, theoretically, provided by the previous government. But, as with most things, it did not really get underway until this government came to office. I can report to the member for Kennedy that work is now underway. The contract has been let—Townsville Enterprise Pty Ltd are taking the key role and a team under GHD Hill Michael are working to identify the key areas where investment can be made and looking at the economics of these proposals to make sure that what can be done to achieve the potential of northern Australia, particularly in North Queensland and in growing sugar, is in fact delivered. We will deliver on what Labor promised but failed to deliver.