Sunday, 24 February 2013

Barnaby Joyce doorstop - Coalition Dams Report

Ten days ago Senator Barnaby Joyce made this opening statement to the assembled media at the doors to the Senate in what is known as a 'doorstop'. I thought it worthwhile to revisit this issue, one that leads to wider questions of balanced development, nation building, food security and oppotunities for regional areas.

Barnaby found it neccessary to make a doorstop appearance because that morning slashed across all major newspapers were articles based on the leaking of the Coalition's draft policy discussion paper for water management of Australia. This is but one example,Tony Abbott's bold water plan leaked 

I will copy the questions and answers that followed in the first comment below. I don't believe that any copyright applies as this doorstop transcript has been made freely available from Senator Joyce's office.

Photo sourced The Age

You have probably read the front page of the paper and the discussion in regards to the Coalition Dams Taskforce. I think it is really important that we deal with this issue in a positive way. The Australian people want to take the next step. The Australian people want the vision that takes them ahead, that has the capacity to grow the size of our economy to grow areas of opportunity and to create a mechanism to assist us in paying the debt the Labor Party has left behind.

Now water is wealth. Efficient storage and usage of water that is environmentally responsible gives our nation a great capacity to take that next step. There is no one here today who is not the benefactor of public works, of dams the capacity to store water. Let’s face it out in the country you can build it all yourself.  We should not be scared of taking the next step. One of the greatest engineering feat of this nation is not that far from here, which is the Snowy Mountain Scheme which is something even to this day people use as a legacy that makes them feel proud of who they are as Australians. They bought in so many people who were immigrants who helped to construct this nation and so I believe the Australian people will be ready to go on a, progress a stage in their life with a new government that is going to take us the next step forward. 

Now I know there will be cynics out there that say that every dam is evil and to anything to do with dams is environmental vandalism. Some of these people you can never make happy. In fact there are probably many in the Greens who want to pull the dams we’ve got down.

What I can say anecdotally is the investment made some time ago in the town I live in St George, for public infrastructure for a dam is now responsible for a community that was built around it. It produces between three-quarters and a billion dollars worth of renewable    income every year predominantly through irrigation. Who are the benefactors of that? It is every person who collects tax revenue from that area and all the people who have the jobs in that area. When you look at it, there are 5,000 people who live in that area so it’s a pretty good return for us all.

Photo source The Punch


  1. Questions and answers from Canberra Doorstop Transcript - Coalition Dams Report
    Senate Doors - 14 February 2013

    Question: This is just a pre-election thought bubble.

    Senator Joyce: No it’s not. A thought bubble would be something that hasn’t come from due diligence. This has been worked on for nearly two years, travelling the countryside, examining sites over the past couple of years. This is certainly not a thought bubble. This is a key policy. It goes to show the Australian people that whilst we have been in Opposition we can be diligently doing our homework and preparing ourselves for that opportunity if it comes, the honour of government. So if we arrive in government, we have a plan for Australia. We have a vision for Australia. Otherwise it will be the same disaster with different bums on seats. It will be a completely different setup, a different vision and a whole new way to take this nation forward.

    Question: (Inaudible) asked about the expense of dam building.

    Senator Joyce: You’re dead right. Dams are expensive. Some of these dams the taxpayer won’t have to put their hands in their pockets at all because of the commercial requirements such as the mining industry and industrial use and residential use. We’ve even developed programs to go about financing these. We have the Infrastructure Partnership Scheme which we also drew up which includes work that involved research in Australia and in New York about how bond structures work over there as a mechanism to entice money from the private sector for the purchase and construction of this. This is not a fly by night idea. This is a wealth of information and detailed investigations and homework behind it. Yes some dams are very expensive. To show our authenticity on that, in the previous election in my budget I put aside half a billion dollars as seed capital that could be used for the construction of dams. I hope all these things and the work we have done towards this, the infrastructure partnerships, what we put in the budget last election toward this process shows that there is authenticity towards this, that it is real. It is something that must happen for Australia. What I am encouraged by is that the Australian people want to go on this journey with us. There is, I believe only a minority of people who think in this present economy that starts in Adelaide and finishes in Brisbane is as good as we’ll ever be. We have the next step. We have the potential to grow the wealth. We have a massive market to our north and the best thing of all we have the Australian people with the capacity to do this. I think they’re looking for that vision and I hope in some small way I’m part of this vision.

  2. Q&A con.

    Question: (inaudible) questioning about the Bradfield Scheme.

    Senator Joyce: There has certainly been a lot of information provided to us and there is a wealth of enthusiasm for a scheme that is exceptionally expensive. What we are looking in the whole scope of the plan is building dams in one catchment and moving water to another. A lot of them have been proposed for years. Some of these are already on the books of the Survey General’s Department in a range of states. It’s not as if we walked along gullies and tried to pick the sites ourselves. A lot of this information was already there but has been collated in such a form that this is a list that you can choose from and pick the ones most suited for economic development, most suited for commercial return and building on our vision for taking Australia to the next step.

    Question: You have already mentioned that environmental concerns may be raised. Are you aware of any negative impacts upon the environment as a result of this plan?

    Senator Joyce: Of course, each dam will be up for environmental study. We don’t want to decimate key environmental assets, but what I might also say is this though, dams by their nature are not just bad for the environment. I’ll give you the classic example of that one of, one of Australia’s biggest dams; Lake Argyle now has two Ramsar Wetlands in it. They weren’t there before the dam arrived. They are there now because they are home to migratory birds.

  3. It’s always good to read Barnaby’s down to earth, straight forward, commonsense comment.

    What a refreshing change it would be to have a government with vision and initiative! Our nation needs practical solutions that will lead to greater prosperity, rather than ‘pie in the sky’ promises, that seem only to materialise into greater national debt.

    Any environmentalist who opposes all dam building needs to recognise that we live on the driest continent on the planet and no life of any kind can be sustained without water. Certainly dam sites need to be very wisely selected, but it makes good sense to harness some of the ‘liquid gold’ (that otherwise disappears into the ocean), and convert it into food!

  4. I wasn't the only one that today in a blog article revisited the leaking of the coalitions draft water management policy. The much more popular Andrew Bolt blog addressed the mocking that occured at the time and how the minister, Tony Burke, in trying to be ever so clever got it all very wrong. See How can a Water Minister know so little about dams?

  5. "He who laughs least laughs last", comes to mind, Dale.

    1. And I thought that it was: "He who laughs last....probably didn't get the jokes in the first place."

    2. Ha ha! Geoff. Great wit as always!

  6. Damned if we don't is an in depth opinion article writen by Nick Cater and publish in The Australian on Feb 15th.
    The article gives a history lesson of dam building and society's changing perseption. Australia went from two ends of the spectrum as shown in these two quotes -

    "The narrative of the Australian post-war years was nation building; no forest was too precious, no valley too pure and no mountain too remote to stand in the way of progress. Dam building was the symbol of the second pioneering age, the means of turning an arid continent into a productive food bowl and powering industrial development.
    The Snowy Mountains scheme was the apotheosis of Australian modernism; a bi-partisan exercise started by a Labor government and completed under the Menzies' Coalition government with barely a whisper of opposition."

    "In November 1982, the campaigners ran out of democratic options when Fraser's cabinet confirmed there would be no federal intervention. "They can only resort to blockades and clutching at the straws of a High Court challenge or a change of Federal government," The Hobart Mercury editorialised. "Next Tuesday's blockade by conservationists in the southwest is now wholly indefensible."

    The blockade began on December 14. By Christmas, 202 of the 417 people who had registered for stage one of the blockade had been arrested and 167 imprisoned for refusing bail conditions. The protests recommenced in January, although work on the dam continued unimpeded.

    Fraser was obliged to go to the polls against the background of bulldozers, drilling, blasting and images of mass arrests. Hawke, newly elected as Labor leader, was willing to overlook the contradiction between campaigning on jobs and employment while promising to block the Gordon-below-Franklin Dam.

    At the March 5 election, the 4 per cent swing to Labor across the country was reversed in Tasmania, with a 4 per cent swing to the Coalition.

    To all intents and purposes, the Franklin campaign ended dam building in Australia for 40 years and turned the environmental movement into a force to be reckoned with."

  7. Environment mental green radicals have been crying wolf about various land based issues but have virtually ignored the ocean.
    About 100 million tonnes of protein annually from the ocean should not be ignored, nor should causes for reduction of supply of that amount.
    Right now whether the reader here has heard about it or not, stocks of the 4 main species of tuna in the Pacific are now at historically low levels.
    In my opinion those words are a fancy discreet way of saying those stocks are devastated and the devastation is continuing unchecked.
    The cause is not being seen and solutions are not being embraced. Just look at Gladstone and damage to the SW Pacific Ocean food web that gas development is surely causing.
    Ripping up estuary nurseries that are supposed to produce food for ocean animals is akin to ripping up feed in a paddock on which livestock depend.

    Political dam building appears to be about contracts for cronies and buy up of dry land for later sale as lucrative irrigated land.
    In reality there is need for balanced sensible water harvesting that could perhaps ensure an annual flow into existing rivers in times of southern drought.
    For example evidence indicates a northern wet season water harvesting system could supply flow into upper catchment of the Darling River that already flows to the Coorong.
    The Coorong is an estuary that is supposed to support seagrass nurseries supposed to supply small fish that go to sea and become food for ocean tuna, whales seabirds and world seafood sustainability for humans. Included is essential protein as supplement for farmed animal food production and supply.

    There is a lot more to this than space to discuss it here. Including a case for resources for relevant sensible, achievable, and viable development.

  8. I have two points about the thought of diverting northern rivers into southern systems such as the Darling. Firstly it ignores the potienial, aspirations and future of the people who live in northern areas. Secondly, is it possible? Have a look at a map, the distances, elevation and the number of transfers between river systems need to do this. I'm interested to know John C of what evidence indicates this to be possible.

  9. Hark back to the Bradfield Scheme Dale and the modified version that a Queensland coalition government looked at closely in more recent times. The Snowy scheme was possible and they had to drill through a mountain range for that. As JohnCF says, not enough space to delve into that here but it sure is food for thought. The Yanks built their Hoover Dam too, which brought water the the parched mid west dust bowl and helped pull them out of a depression. Here we had a GFC recession, cash handouts, killer pink batts and overpriced school halls. Where is the legacy in that?

  10. Instead of actually diverting northern rivers to the south I think water harvesting could be applied to catch wet season water from catchment and creeks in the Gregory Range before it gets into rivers that waste so much into the Gulf of Carpentaria.
    Existing properties in the area only need one day of a river flood instead of say 6 days, to fill water holes. For example 5 days worth could go south via aqueduct to headwaters of the Darling River and water properties along the way. The Warrego and Paroo are part of that catchment. Livestock does not use so much water whereas you know irrigation does. So leave big irrigation aside for the moment although Cubby Station type operations can help store water for later release southward.
    Is it possible to achieve? I think so. I have studied relevant feasibility especially via Google Earth where elevation registers on the bottom toolbar from where you point your computer pointer.
    The Gregory Range shows 800 metres elevation and distance from there to the upper Darling catchment is less than from Bourke to South Australia's Coorong and ocean. At Bourke the elevation is just over 200 metres yet water falls all the way to sea level at the Coorong SA.
    I think an aqueduct system could even provide a brief flow for other rivers along the way, including perhaps one or two that Barnaby Joyce and Co are looking to dam. If a system is built adequately it could also provide environment flow into wetlands and other rivers including to Lake Eyre.
    Study Google Earth, especially from the Gregory Range. That range attracts just about every cyclone ever to enter the region.
    Less floods in the region would equate to less erosion on the albeit naturally eroded land, and less silt into the Gulf.
    I think it's a win win situation for everyone and everything involved.
    Maybe even radical greenies will see it as well.


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