The Gillard Government is handing over $20 million to the New South Wales Government for a water project despite the collapse of the agreement under which it was committed.
Federal departmental officials confirmed in Senate Estimates today, under questioning from Coalition Murray-Darling Basin spokesman Simon Birmingham, that funding for a pipeline between Orange and the Macquarie River was being provided.
“It wasn’t conditional or contingent. It was an agreement to provide the funding at the time that the agreement was made and the project is proceeding.”
Mary Harwood, Water Efficiency Division,
Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities,
Senate Supplementary Budget Estimates, 18 October 2011
The $20 million in federal funding was agreed as part of a July 2010 pre-election Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which the Federal Department’s own website now indicates has ceased to have effect.
The MOU was principally about funding the re-engineering of the Menindee Lakes water storage in New South Wales, a project with the potential to achieve 200 billion litres in water savings for both irrigators and the environment.
“If this project was worth funding, then it was worth doing separately to any agreement on Menindee Lakes,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“Clearly, Julia Gillard needed a sweetener to bring New South Wales to the table before the election, but is coughing up the cash despite New South Wales long ago walking away from the deal.
“Julia Gillard is a terrible dealmaker on behalf of Australian taxpayers, who’ve footed the bill for far less than the intended value for money.
“Based on this alone, any Government or organisation must relish the opportunity to do business with Ms Gillard because this has most certainly not been a win for the Australian taxpayer.”
 Clause 27 of the MOU available at http://www.environment.gov.au/water/policy-programs/srwui/menindee-lakes/pubs/menindee-lakes-mou.pdf
http://www.environment.gov.au/water/policy-programs/srwui/menindee-lakes/index.html, accessed 18 October 2011