Landry says PM offered to double the money for Rookwood
WITH a decision on the fate of the Rookwood Weir due to be made by the Queensland Government by end of the month, an explosive allegation has surfaced.
According to Capricornia MP Michelle Landry, at the June sitting of the Council of Australian Governments meeting, Prime Minister Turnbull made a verbal offer to Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to double the federal funding for the construction of the Rookwood Weir to $260 million.
"Despite the Federal Government providing $130 million (or half of construction costs) at the last year's election, and the Prime Minister doubling the offer earlier this year, this Queensland Government simply refuses to develop central Queensland and grow the economy,” Ms Landry said in a statement on Tuesday.
"There was a COAG meeting early in the year and the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Northern Australian Minister (at the time) Matthew Canavan, and they said to the Premier that they are getting very frustrated by Rookwood Weir not moving ahead,” Ms Landry said.
"We had $130 million on the table and nothing appears to be happening with it.
"It was said there by the Prime Minister, I believe, that 'would they get moving on it if we put $260 million on the table for it?'.
"The Premier was interested in it, as were the treasury officials at the time and they said they would get back to us about it and they never have.”
Talking about the Queensland Government, she said, "the ball is in their court, there's nothing further they can do with regards to that”.
"They hold the water licences, they control the water and we're keen to see this move ahead,” Ms Landry said.
"The offer was made, it was never written down. It was made at the COAG meeting in front of a lot of other people but the State Government has never come back about that.
"If the Premier and the bureaucrats who were at the meeting haven't told (Queensland Water Supply Minister Mark Bailey), he needs to ask them why instead of making personal attacks on me.”
Mr Bailey said the comments from the Member for Capricornia regarding the Federal Government funding for Rookwood Weir were news to him.
"Based on her comments, the Federal Government has now committed $260 million towards the capital cost of the project, which is double the original commitment of $130 million,” Mr Bailey said.
"We would welcome this new funding offer as this is potentially a game changer for the project and something that would have to be assessed, as it wasn't part of the business case.
"I will be writing to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce to seek clarification on this new funding deal.”
Mr Bailey said for such a large amount of taxpayer money, formal confirmation in black and white was a basic requirement.
"Government is due to consider the business case imminently, and I will need to seek further advice on implications of this new funding deal from the Federal Government that is apparently now on the table,” he said.
"The point of the business case for Rookwood Weir is to determine the feasibility of the proposed future water infrastructure project, whether it stacks up economically.
"The original funding commitment from the Federal Government was subject to the business case stacking up and I assume that this won't change.”
He said careful consideration was prudent given the significant ongoing financial contributions that may be required from both the Federal and State governments to build, operate and maintain the dam.
A spokesperson from the Premier has left the door open for the extra federal funding.
"The Palaszczuk Government has yet to receive a letter from the Federal Government, however we would welcome a letter clarifying the funding commitments,” the spokesperson said.
If this story triggers the formal exchange of correspondence between the Federal and State governments, it promises to be the break to see the Rookwood project finally get off the ground.
Throughout the Rookwood funding saga, the LNP at the state and federal level have pushed for a start on the project. Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne has steadfastly maintained the process wouldn't be rushed and the State Government Cabinet was due make a decision this month.