Interview with Michael J Bailey Radio 4RO Rockhampton

Michael J Bailey: Senator Ian Macdonald along with Andrew Robb and Barnaby Joyce are in Rockhampton looking at dam sites, possible dam sites. Anyway Senator Ian Macdonald is in the studio. Good Morning to you Senator, how are we

Senator Macdonald: Good Morning Michael.

Michael J Bailey: Its just a great day to be alive. Are you enjoying the cloud coverage, its very warm isnt it

Senator Macdonald: Its a lovely morning in Rockhampton but then, it usually is.

Michael J. Bailey: OK, tell me about the dam sites for our region. Do we need another dam somewhere

Senator Macdonald: I think we do Michael. Weve got a hell of a lot of activity around Rocky. The mines all need water, they cant operate without it. There are lots of opportunities for agriculture, perhaps when the mines go, which will eventually happen. But even now I think we can do more with our beef cattle, we can do more with horticulture, agriculture if we had a bit of water in various parts of Central Queensland.

Michael J Bailey: Were always talking about the barrage here, perhaps we should be raising that to get some more water behind that. What have you come up with Any possible sites or any solutions

Senator Macdonald: Well Michael, were looking around Australia, you might know that in the last couple of decades if you mentioned the word dams you were almost thrown into jail. Australia had a real dams phobia. You werent allowed to talk about it. Tony Abbott wants to get rid of that idea, he wants to make it respectable to talk about dams so our Task Group is looking all over Australia for water storage opportunities and this morning were going to go out to the Rockwood Weir, have a look around there, get some briefings on that. We also then want to have a look at Eden Bann facility and see what might be able to be done there.

Yesterday we had a look at the Connors River Dam, admittedly from the air and also had a good briefing on the Nathan Dam and there are other dams in this locality and Michael if all these coal mines are going to go ahead, if all this employment is going to be created, all this wealth from Central Queensland, then weve got to have water with it.

Michael J Bailey: Now this is obviously a big project because you just dont build dams overnight. Youre looking at what 5-10 years.

Senator Macdonald: We are Michael. Look, I think Australians are sick of having another talkfest to talk about taxation, talk about employment, you know, setting up another committee, another forum, another investigation and I think Australians are just sick of that. I mean we know were going to get a toxic Carbon Tax, we know were going to get a Mining Tax, thats about the only action that the current governments taken. So, what Tony Abbott wants us to do is to come up with some suggestions, come the next election he wants to get up on the platform before the election and say, as a government we are going to support these particular dams, these particular water storages. This is why we are doing this. We want to have a vision for the future, we want to go to the election and say we know youre sick of this government, but heres a reason to vote for us because we have a plan, we believe in the future. We think Australias about developing and giving opportunity to Australians with that pioneering spirit and thats what this whole Task Group is about.

Michael J Bailey: Well, you know, the Task Group is in town, is there any chance you can just take a trip to Mount Morgan because theres a pit up there with about, I dont know, so many megalitres of sulphuric acid and everything else. Any chance the government could actually chip in, empty that, so that we could get some fresh water in there

Senator Macdonald: Well Michael, look, I dont want to talk history but Im well aware of that. When I was actually Minister for Conservation, we put about, from memory, about $5 million into trying to fix that up. It didnt work. Im pleased to see weve got the former Mayor from up that way as one of our State Candidates. It really is, you know the history of that thing. It was bad work by a State Government decades ago and Im hoping that the guy who used to be up in that area will have that as one of his focuses around here.

Michael J Bailey: Well look at the end of the day the State Government has spent another $7 million on it but the actual cost is around the $130-$150 million to clean it up. Because, you know, theyre emptying it, and then putting it back in, theyre trying to purify the water on a gradual basis to go in the deep. So they are spending an awful lot of money but no one will come up with the exact big money to clean it up once and for all.

Senator Macdonald: Heres me asking you Michael, is there a solution I remember vaguely from 7 or 8 years ago when I was more directly involved and better briefed but it was a difficult thing. I understand the Dee River, Ive seen it, its a dead river.

Michael J Bailey: Hell yeah.

Senator Macdonald: A dead river, but if there is a solution, and its just money thats stopping it, I mean, someones got to bite the bullet

Michael Bailey: Exactly right. And, you know, were not blaming Labor, Liberal, Coalition, Country, whoevers been in power all those years ago. I think Gavin Finch, when he was Mayor, was trying to get an osmosis process on it and do it that way to purify the water. The only thing that stopped him, of course, was the money.

Senator Macdonald: Well look, I was talking to Gavin last night. Hes a great guy, his focus of course now is on whats happening around Rocky, but as a former Mount Morgan Mayor hed be the one with all the knowledge on that and I must have a better talk with him on it in the future to see if there is something an incoming government might do. Its not just Mount Morgan and the Dee River, I mean the Dee River runs into somewhere and ends up down on the Barrier Reef.

Michael J Bailey: Well, you know, itd be nice to get more water because I know Gladstone needs more water. Weve got the Awoonga Dam, thats chock-a-block. Weve got Bundoora Dam, thats chock-a-block. Youre thinking more out west for water are you or just a catchment area where you can actually siphon off the water to help out the mining industry in the long term

Senator Macdonald: Michael, were looking everywhere and weve been fortunate in having Ken ODowd, of course, well known in this area as the Member for Flynn, Gladstone based and Gracemere based. No, were looking everywhere and these are just some of the ones were doing on this tour. Weve been on a number of investigations right across Australia. Were not going to be able to do them all, but what we really want to do is say to people if you want to go ahead and do something, if you want to give this country a boost, if you want to actually see Australia progress, then go ahead and do it and youll get every support you can get. Not always money, but every sort of support we can give you to make things happen. As I say, were sick of talking about things, we want action.

Michael J Bailey: When do we see the plan Is it going to be ready in 12 months, 2 years time

Senator Macdonald: Were reporting to Tony Abbott. We intend to give an interim report before Christmas and a final report from which Tony will announce our views for the next election will come in the middle of next year, depending, of course, when the election is and who knows when that might be.

Michael J Bailey: OK then, interesting. Look, the Tax Summit, a lot of hot air. Are we going to get anything out of it, the tax meet, are there going to be any breaks for us I mean, you guys werent even invited so I suppose you have to read it in The Australian like everyone else, do you

Senator Macdonald: We do, but look its all predictable, I mean, was it Ken Henry who said he could have written the script before it started and look . . .

Michael J Bailey: He was falling asleep.

Senator Macdonald: Well, do you blame him Look these things are just, when youre not doing anything, when youre not governing, when youre not taking any action what you do to try and divert attention is you have a forum or a seminar or something. Its just a farce. Look people elect governments to do things. They dont elect them to, you know, sit down and have a bit of a chat and thats why were doing this Task Group stuff.

Michael J Bailey: Now you are off to another media interview at the moment or can you hang around for a while

Senator Macdonald: OK

Michael J. Bailey: Ive got to talk to Fraser Pearce (Editor of The Rockhampton Bulletin). I wouldnt mind if you could hang around. You know where the kitchen is.

Senator Macdonald: Yeah.

Michael J. Bailey: Well talk to you after 7.30am, OK

Senator Macdonald: OK.

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