Rookwood Weir political breakthrough edges project closer
THE political stalemate on Rookwood Weir has finally been broken and way forward is clearer now than it's been in months.
It was Capricornia MP Michelle Landry who broke the good news to The Morning Bulletin.
After months of waiting for a written response from Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to clarify to the Queensland Government what the federal government's funding commitment for Rookwood Weir was, yesterday Ms Landry called to confirm his letter stating it was limited to $130m had finally been sent.
It is worth retracing history to understand why a single piece of written correspondence was holding up a $260 million project which promised to create hundreds of jobs and provide water security for Central Queensland.
On October 17, Ms Landry said an increased funding offer had been made to the Queensland Government at the June sitting of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting.
"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.
"The Queensland Government has been offered the full funding required for the Weir and are yet to respond to this offer made early in 2017.”
On October 20, Queensland's Minister for Water Supply (at the time) Mark Bailey wrote to Mr Joyce seeking written clarification as to the actual amount of the federal government's funding offer given that if it was $260 million, it would affect the results of the business case for the Rookwood Weir Project.
For 56 days, the Queensland Government and the people of Central Queensland waited for a response.
Given a cloud hung over Mr Joyce's decisions from the moment he was outed as a dual citizen on August 14, until October 27 when he was ruled ineligible to sit in parliament by the High Court, Mr Joyce was unable to make a decisive call on the issue.
With Queensland Government entering into caretaker mode during the November state election campaign, a decision couldn't be made anyway until the next Cabinet was sworn in.
With the Prime Minister taking over Mr Joyce's responsibilities and unwilling to send correspondence in Mr Joyce's absence, it has taken for Mr Joyce to be sworn back in on 6 December 6 and extensive following up by The Morning Bulletin for a response to finally be forthcoming.
Yesterday vocal advocate for Rookwood Weir Senator Matt Canavan, confirmed he had spoken to his party leader Mr Joyce on the issue.
"I've spoke to Barnaby Joyce yesterday, He's only just come back into the job and his ministry, he'll be responding in due course,” Senator Canavan said.
"If the Queensland Government next week makes a decision that they will invest the other half on Rookwood Weir, this project can get cracking within months.”
Senator Canavan estimated Rookwood Weir's construction could be knocked over within a year if the weather conditions were favourable.
In what promises to a be new era in political cooperation, Ms Landry confirmed Mr Joyce had plans to meet with the newly sworn-in Queensland Minister for Natural Resources Dr Anthony Lynham on Tuesday while they were in Albury for the Murray Darling Basin Ministerial Council.
She said Mr Joyce intended to speak with Dr Lynham to establish how the Queensland Government intended to proceed with the project now the federal government's $130m commitment had been confirmed.
A spokesperson for Dr Lynham said finalisation of the business case was a priority for the government.
"One of Dr Lynham's senior advisors has been discussing with the Deputy Prime Minister's office a potential meeting at the ministerial council in Albury next week to clarify the Commonwealth's position,” the spokesperson said.
Queensland Cabinet is expected to meet on Monday, but it was unclear if a decision on Rookwood Weir would be on the agenda.
Questions have been raised about when Rookwood's business case would be available to the public given comments made in August by the former Agriculture Minister and Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne.
"That business case will go for consideration by Building Queensland then government will make a decision that will be made public in October when that happens,” Mr Byrne said at the time.
"A redacted version will be made public because of the commercial confidence of these business cases.
"Now I don't know what the outcome will be but I can tell you this, if the business case stacks up, I'll be going for it.”
New Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke has consistently maintained the same stance.