I rise to oppose the opposition’s motion and speak on the importance of water
to all Victorians. This government is about planning and securing our water. Our
Water Our Future has seven major platforms. The first, of course, is the funding
element and it is $4.9 billion worth of investment. It also provides for one of
the world’s biggest desalination plants by 2011. It provides 375 billion litres
of water, a 50 per cent boost in Melbourne’s water and of course we cannot
forget a 50 per cent boost in Geelong’s water supply. It will provide 250
kilometres of new pipe. It is about water for our cities, towns and regions —
water for all. All projects are making strong progress and all projects
throughout the state are on track.
In relation to the north-south pipeline and the food bowl
modernisation project, as members have heard from previous speakers, it is a $2
billion project and it will secure water supplies. It will secure water
retention by making huge improvements and reducing seepage and evaporation.
The pipeline and the food bowl project go hand in hand, and
this has already been clearly articulated by Mr Viney and Ms Darveniza. The
opposition disputes the water savings, but still wants money for the
redevelopment of the irrigation system. What I say back to the opposition is
that you cannot have it both ways; it just does not stack up. The reality is
that the project is supported, and it needs to be remembered that the proposal
actually came from the area concerned. As with most projects, there are
supporters and there are opponents. In respect of the supporters, Mr Viney read
out a huge list, and they have also taken out advertisements in the local
papers. As the Premier outlined in the other place as recently as yesterday,
those advertisements, unlike what was implied by Ms Lovell, were actually paid
for by the group itself.
I would like to add to the list. To the list there also needs
to be added Mr Ross McPherson, who is the chairman of the McPherson Media Group.
We have Mr Gavin Pogue, a valuer; Ms Lisa McKenzie, chief
executive officer of Fairley Leadership; Linfox — —
Mr Koch interjected.
Ms TIERNEY — Yes, and I advise Ms Lovell that we have
Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as three unions —
the Workers Union, the National Union of Workers
and the Australian Workers Union. We also have the Tourism Taskforce Australia,
Industry Funds Management, Earth Tech, Excelior and Transfield Services. There
is a whole range of individuals, company executives and employer organisations
as well as unions who actually support the north-south pipeline.
Support is also evident in respect to letters to the editor. As
recently as last week on the back of the demonstration or the protest that was
held outside the chamber, Mr Ross McPherson, the co-convenor of Foodbowl
Unlimited, who is based in Shepparton, said in his letter to the Age:
- The lies of which the Premier complains —
which was reported in the Age of 4 June —
- are not insignificant and deserve a little more scrutiny from your
newspaper. Chief among them is the notion that Melbourne is ‘stealing’ water
from the north. The truth is that the massive annual losses in the northern
irrigation system — equating to twice the water used by the whole of Melbourne
— are neither owned nor paid for by irrigators. They are owned by the Victorian
taxpayer. And the taxpayers are paying a handsome price to secure a one-third
share of savings.
- Next is the notion that the pipeline will turn the north into a dust bowl.
In fact, all irrigators will end up with an increase in their legal water right
as a result of this project.
- And then there’s the suggestion that the government is doing something
against the country’s wishes. In fact, this project was conceived by irrigators
and business people in the north and taken to government.
- There are 140 000 of us in the north who are quietly delighted with the $2
billion investment in our region: it guarantees irrigated agriculture will have
a very bright future.
There is further support in the area. In fact it also appeared
in the Age on that day as well in a letter from Mr Drew Pettifer from Kyabram,
- The Plug the Pipe coalition wants to have its cake and eat it too. While the
group disputes the government figures on the estimated water savings generated
by the north-south pipeline, it has never disputed the fact that water savings
will be made as a result of $2 billion in investment.
- Nor does the group disagree that the food bowl modernisation project is
needed; the irrigation channels in northern Victoria are more than 100 years old
and waste substantial amounts of water through leakage.
- The savings from the upgrades to the irrigation system will be divided
between irrigators, environmental flows and Melbourne consumers. With more than
70 per cent of Victorians living in Melbourne, according to the 2006 census, it
seems only fair that a portion of the savings should be enjoyed by city
consumers who are suffering even greater water shortages than those of us in
northern Victoria. After all, their taxpayer dollars are funding these
- The drought is a statewide problem in Victoria and requires a statewide
solution. While the pipeline will not be a panacea for the drought, it does
appear to be a serious attempt at resolving some of Victoria’s water shortages.
And even in this morning’s Weekly Times we have another
contribution from Mr Trevor Mays from Chum Creek, who says:
- John Brumby’s characterisation of Plug the Pipe people is spot-on.
- They are moving throughout our community spreading disinformation and
half-truths about the food bowl modernisation and north-south pipeline.
- The Liberals and Nationals are trying to use the project for political gain.
- Peter Ryan has said that if The Nationals won the 2010 election, the
pipeline will stay; Ted Baillieu’s Liberals have no policy.
Can I also inform the house that there was a recent meeting in
Ballarat of regional mayors, and the Premier said at that meeting that there had
been near unanimous support for the project, but the mayors described it as a
visionary plan to drought proof the state.
I think to all intents and purposes the fact remains that there
has been, continues to be and will be absolute support for this project. That is
not to say, as we know, that there are not opponents to it, and opponents in
cases such as this where there are major projects are often passionate, and this
can be said about some of the opposition among members of the Plug the Pipe
group as well. Of course it is understandable in some ways that opposition
groups also fuel discontent, and it is often the case that people feel as though
they are not being heard, and often opposition groups call on governments for
more consultation or state that there has been no consultation. This claim is
often used by groups that essentially just have not got their own way, and this
is the case in terms of the Plug the Pipe group.
Mr Holding and other ministers time after time — which I
myself have witnessed — have listed all the consultations, all the forums, all
the discussions and all the meetings that have been held with the people who are
opposing the north-south pipeline as well as those who are in favour of it. The
fact is that this government is pressing ahead. It is unfortunate that the Plug
the Pipe spokesperson, Mike Dalmau, has chosen the course that he has. As cited
in the Herald Sun of 5 June, he is a twice-failed Liberal candidate for the seat
of Seymour. The Premier was also quoted in the same article as saying that this
man has a political agenda, and the information that he has been spreading is
not fair on country Victoria. Mr Dalmau is then quoted as saying:
- We’ll see if we can’t hurt them in the Kororoit by-election later this
He also goes on to say:
- I’m not planning on running for Seymour again, but that said, you never know
what the future holds.
Clearly there is political motivation that is driving a lot of
the opposition in respect of this issue.
The fact is that regardless of whether or not there is
political motivation involved in this, we are in a drought situation. Australia
has been, and indeed this state has been, in a relentless drought condition for
some time, and we are — believe it or not — all in it together.
To promote the division between Melbourne and regional Victoria
is politically, economically and socially absolutely irresponsible.
Politics has moved on. As regional Victoria has developed, so
too has the level of politics. I would argue that using the old divisive
Melbourne versus country Victoria politics is old politics. Regional Victoria
now has access to technology which, until a short time ago, was not necessarily
the case. The barriers created by geographic distance are being eroded by
information technology in people’s homes, schools and businesses right
throughout Victoria. The politics of ‘he said, she said’ are the politics of
yesterday and do not stand the test of today. Mono, narrow views which have had
input into the bush telegraph are also being significantly eroded as a result of
We now have modern cities outside of Melbourne.
We have large regional centres, we have small towns and we have
remote rural communities; we have people living in those communities that are
connected to computers in their homes who are increasingly working from their
homes, often in idyllic surroundings of the Victorian coast as well as the
hinterland. The us-and-them politics is the politics of the past. More
importantly, it creates unnecessary divisions and mistrust. I think it is
particularly demoralising for people to use such negative politics when Victoria
faces the significant changes in front of us today regarding the continuing
drought, climate change, high petrol prices and of course the high Australian
dollar. Due to all of these issues — along with the opposition acting
irresponsibly — where is the hint that the Liberal Party is seriously taking up
the challenge of securing water? Where is the opposition’s water plan?
I have heard one or two things over the last couple of years:
we had a suggestion about the damming of the Maribyrnong River, and a couple of
other things have been tossed around. But there has never been a comprehensive
water plan put to the people of Victoria or put in newspapers or to the
communications sector. The opposition does not have a comprehensive water plan
let alone a plan that can be continually built on if we continue to be in the
unfortunate circumstance of continuing drought. We do not have a plan from the
opposition, because it is a little bit easier for the opposition to be lazy.
Opposition members rely on one-liners; they continually
deep-trawl for issues. They try to hijack local community groups and hope that
media grabs will somehow convince Victorians that the opposition should be
considered to govern this great state. But this Liberal Party has no leadership,
does no work and has nothing positive to offer. It has no plans and has no
On the other hand, we have a water plan. This is a Labor
government that faces the challenges and has ideas; it has the research, it has
lateral thinking, it has a comprehensive approach and it is cohesive. We have a
leader who is Premier Brumby. He is respectful of people’s right to peacefully
protest. The Premier, like everyone else, has the right to have an opinion.
Mrs Peulich — Well, he thinks you should go next time.
Ms TIERNEY — That is completely unnecessary and does not
help the citizens of this state in respect to the water difficulties we have.
The Premier also has the right to state whether he believes
that certain protesters are representative of people across regional Victoria.
The Brumby Labor government is listening to all, but I say this to the
opposition: this government does not have to agree with all.
It is firm and works on outcomes for all. It does not take a
narrow approach; it takes a whole-picture approach. It has leadership, which is
something that the opposition does not have. I call on members of this house to
reject this motion and implore all of them to get on with the things that
matter, and to secure water for all Victorians.