The Rudd Labor Government has revealed it can’t yet say how much water is likely to be returned to environmental flows as a result of almost $4 billion in infrastructure funding already allocated in principle, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
Under questioning in Senate Supplementary Budget Estimates, Water Minister Penny Wong today revealed that of the $5.8 billion earmarked for infrastructure upgrades, $3.985 billion had already been allocated in principle.
However, despite repeated questioning, Senator Wong and departmental officials could provide no estimates of how much water the $3.985 billion would actually save in return.
“We can’t give you information on projects that have not yet been put to us.”
Senator Penny Wong, Supplementary Estimates, 21 October 2008.
“That nearly $4 billion can be notionally allocated for water infrastructure projects without the government having any total estimate of potential water savings or clear target for water savings defies any logic,” Senator Birmingham said.
“We have been told that a potable water pipeline for the Lower Lakes and Narrung Peninsula in SA is the only project to have reached the due diligence stage but, while extremely important for those communities, is estimated to save little if any water.
“Other projects, such as the re-engineering of the Menindee Lakes in New South Wales, have the potential to return up to 200 gigalitres of water to environmental flows. Yet the Government will amazingly spend three years dithering on options and assessments before any decision to proceed is taken.
“Labor’s infrastructure projects appear to be dominated either by ad hoc election commitments or backroom political deals, such as the $1 billion for Victoria’s Food Bowl Modernisation Project necessary to coax Victoria into the watered down National Plan.
“The Rudd Government is dragging its heels on water infrastructure projects and is failing to undertake them in a transparent and systematic manner, with no clear targets for the water savings it is seeking.
“It shouldn’t be beyond the Government to indicate the savings expected to be achieved for each $100 million allocated. It should be a basic matter of good process.”