Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria)— Could the Treasurer please inform the house of any progress made in the final funding for the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline?
Mr LENDERS (Treasurer)— I thank Ms Tierney for her question and her interest in the
Wimmera-Mallee pipeline, which I have spoken about before in this house. I have spoken about it being a fantastic infrastructure program and one that the Bracks and Brumby governments have led on. We have been in partnership with the federal government on this program, so I give credit to it in seeking to have a partnership. The federal government may have been tardy in paying for a while, but it was a fairly good partnership.
Sadly, and this will greatly disappoint Ms Tierney’s electors and any member who represents a rural area, the federal government has moved from a commitment to matching the funding to matching the funding if we sign up to the Murray-Darling Basin agreement. What the federal government is actually doing in its death throes during a federal election campaign is saying, ‘We will only fund Victorian farmers if Victoria agrees to join a federal plan’. We have talked before about the fact that the federal government considers it is okay to send water to Adelaide but not anywhere else, it is okay to reward inefficient farming practices in other states. Sadly I say to Ms Tierney that this program is there but the federal government is blackmailing Victorian farmers, who are subjected to drought. It is saying, ‘We will give you the money for the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline, if you put up the white flag to bullying from the federal government’.
Victorian irrigators have backed the state government’s position on opposing a sell-out to the commonwealth government, and The Nationals and the Liberals have belatedly followed suit.
What we see now is the federal Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, blackmailing Victorians. He is saying, ‘In a time of drought and stress you must capitulate, you must sign over on this despite the long-term economic benefits to the state, if you are going to get the water’. Mr Turnbull is a disappointment. It is a disappointment that we have moved from bipartisanship on this issue to blackmail. But the Victorian government will be vigilant. We will await the election outcome. We are confident that the incoming government will not have those strings attached to the project. It will not seek to blackmail Victorians in a time of drought, and this sort of pipeline will be one more thing to make Victoria a better place to live, work and raise a family.