Media Release – Senator Barnaby Joyce, Shadow Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Water, and Andrew Robb MP, Shadow Minister for Finance, Deregulation, and Debt Reduction; 12 April 2012:
Northern vision held back by leadership deficit
The Coalition Dams and Water Management Task Group visited the Northern Territory this week and found that the vast economic opportunity of the north is being held back by a culture of bureaucratic inertia and apathy from the Northern Territory Labor government.
“There are enormous economic opportunities in the north of Australia” said Chairman of the Dams Task Group, Andrew Robb.
“Currently 28 per cent of the world’s middle class now lives in the Asia-Pacific. The OECD forecasts that by 2030, 66 per cent of the world’s middle class will live between India and China. This finally delivers to the north what they have lacked, affluent markets close to our ports.
“To take this opportunity though we need to have governments which show leadership and vision. I was astounded that the Northern Territory government snubbed the task group and refused to meet with us. Every other government in Australia, be they Labor or Liberal-National, have welcomed the task group.
“From what we did learn, the Northern Territory government is letting down Territorians. They released a plan for Darwin without any plan for where future water supplies would come from. Down south this kind of stubbornness has lead to the financial disasters of desalination plants. The Northern Territory does not want the same outcome up here.”
Senator Joyce, Deputy Chair of the Dams Committee, said that the government seemed to be hiding between environmentalism rather than doing the hard work of providing a proper balance between economic, social and environmental factors.
“It’s so disappointing when you meet people who want to make a go of it, who want to create a new area of wealth for our nation, but then are held back by stifling bureaucracy and inertia on the part of government.
“It seems like you only have to mention the word “environment” and you are miraculously transformed into an omnipotent being who dare not be questioned. It’s not good enough. Why should we limit water use to an arbitrary figure of 20 per cent? Nobody could tell us.
“That’s absurd. The flow of some of these rivers is half the whole of the Murray, and use is currently less than 1 per cent of what is used in the Murray. Development seems to be stopped because people are afraid the Territory could end up with the issues of the Murray-Darling.”
Tony Abbott established the Coalition Dams and Water Management Task Group in January with the remit to look at options for investment in new or expanded dams throughout Australia. The task group has now visited every State and Territory in Australia and has met with and received submissions from over 100 organisations and individuals.
The task group will issue an interim report in the coming weeks.