May 25, 2007

Partial transcript of doorstop – Mardi Dam, Wyong

Partial transcript of doorstop – Mardi Dam, Wyong

E & O E – PROOF ONLY

25 May 2007

Subjects: Water; Climate Change Advertising

RUDD: Well, it’s good to be here today with Craig Thompson, our candidate for Dobell, and Belinda Neal, our candidate for Robertson, and Anthony Albanese, the Shadow Minister for Water and Infrastructure.

Why are we here? Because we’re concerned, at a practical level, about how you deal with the Central Coast water problems. And we’ve looked carefully at what the Prime Minister’s National Water Plan provides and we’ve offered the Prime Minister on many occasions, our bipartisan support for dealing with the great challenges of the Murray-Darling. And that’s important and there are still challenges to deal with when it comes to the position of the Victorian Government.

One of the problems with the Government’s current approach to our national water crisis is the Government still has not advanced any proposals for dealing with the challenges or urban water. Some 17 million Australians rely upon one form or another of urban water supplies. And we believe we actually need to work in this area as well.

The Murray-Darling initiative is good in itself, though we’ve still got to get the detail right. But when it comes to the need for urban water across Australia, there we don’t see any proposal so far put forward by the Government. That’s where our proposals come forward.

Most recently, in the Budget Reply, I indicated that Labor would be funding a quarter of a billion dollar national pipes repair plan. Basically, it’s like this. When it comes to water pipes across the country, one of the big problems that you have is the amount of leakage which occurs from old pipes. And in certain cities, as much as 10 per cent and in other cities it goes as high as 30 per cent. And fixing the quality of our water pipes represents such a huge part of an overall national solution in dealing with this most precious resource, water. And that, of course, is a proposal we’ve put forward for use in towns and in cities across Australia in partnership with local water authorities. And we think it’s a very practical plan.

Here today we’re dealing with another practical plan. And that is how do we go about linking this dam here, the Mardi Dam, with the Mangrove Creek Dam behind us, some 22 kms away? And this again, is a practical proposal we want to get behind and support.

I’ve had, so far, many representations from Craig Thompson and from Belinda Neal about what we can do to support this in a practical way. And, therefore, what I’m announcing today is that if we’re elected to form the next government of Australia we’ll commit $40 million, that’s half of the $80 million needed, to construct a pipeline which links these two dams. If we construct this missing link, what happens is we provide a basis for long term water security for this important part of Australia’s Central Coast. And I think it’s a very practical plan for the future and I’m pleased to be able to support it.

The representations which have been made by our two local candidates have been strong and, from our point of view, successful because there’s lot of competition from right across Australia for the available funds which are dedicated to water projects of this type. And we decided to support this one.

If we construct this missing link, we think it’s a very practical step forward in order to secure long term water supply. I’m very pleased to be able to support this.

And before taking your questions on any other subject, I’ll quickly flip to the candidates who might wish to add in terms of this important project.

THOMPSON: Well, just quickly, it’s a tremendous announcement for the Central Coast. We’ve been on Level 4 water restrictions for close to two years, and without this missing link, that’s something that we’ve continued to look to in the future. What it actually does for us on the Central Coast is increase the catchment area three-fold so we go from having a small catchment area up in the mountains to being able to harvest the water from the coast, where we’ve had the most rainfall in recent times, but also to increase that catchment area three-fold. Without this, the Cental Coast was close to running dry and it’s a central part of the infrastructure, one that we’ve campaigned hard on. We’ve had five and a half thousand signatures within the last two weeks from people saying, ‘let’s just get on and build the pipeline’. And Kevin’s promise today makes that possible if there’s a Labor Government that’s elected.

NEAL: The Central Coast community has told us that what is important is water. A solution to the crisis for the Central Coast and we have listened to those views expressed from people on the Central Coast and we taken steps necessary to secure water for the Central Coast and provide a solution to their real problem.

RUDD: OK. I’m happy to take some questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, are you confident that the State Government will put some money in now? They have been less than enthusiastic about supporting this project and have said it’s all up to the councils?

RUDD: Well, we’ve made sure today that it’s not all up to the councils. I understand the local Liberal Member’s attitude to this is a 100 per cent council responsibility. We’re saying, no, 50 per cent of the money’s going to come from us. But we are looking to the local councils to help shoulder the burden and take the other 50 per cent on their shoulders as well. That’s the partnership. The State Government as I understand it, has made many other investments in water in this wider region and I’m sure Anthony can comment on that further if you wish. Any other questions?

JOURNALIST: Do you think this is a vote winner (inaudible)

RUDD: I always say this: I support local candidates and members who get behind their local communities. If they work hard and get in behind their local communities, I’m pretty confident local communities will then get in behind them. But you know, if you’re just into short term pre-election politics, it never really works. The Australian people look you in the eye and what they want to know is whether you’re fair dinkum about standing up for the things that matter to them. Water is basic, this 22 kilometre pipeline is basic stuff, it’s good stuff that governments can do. We’ve put our money on the table and I’m confident both Craig and Belinda will be getting that message out to the local people here.

JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, another $23 million ad campaign from the Howard Government on how well they’re dealing with climate change.

RUDD: I might say something on that and I’m going to turn to Anthony Albanese who’s been following this forensically. Yesterday in Parliament, I think it was yesterday Anthony? Yesterday in Parliament, Mr Howard denied all knowledge of the government having signed any contracts for any new advertising campaign on climate change or the environment, I think I’ve got that absolutely right haven’t I Anthony? Suddenly, mysteriously today, we have a $23 million campaign about to burst on to our television sets and into our letter boxes. Funny that. Can I just say: when it comes to something as important as climate change and water, the Australian people want fair dinkum, long-term policies that work, not short-term pre-election pitches through a PR campaign. Anthony, why don’t you add to that?

ALBANESE: This week we asked in Parliament about whether the Government had a climate change information plan planned. It is the case that not only has a $178,000 research, market research activity been commissioned in order to commission polling groups and focus groups on the pamphlet that’s planned, but also on the letter from the Prime Minister that will go out as a covering letter for that campaign. It’s quite extraordinary that the Prime Minister said very explicitly in Parliament that neither the Government or his department or his office had commissioned that work.

We know now that not only has market research been done, but a contract has been signed with advertising agencies for that particular campaign. We know that it was approved by the Government committee which looks after advertising on which Tony Nutt, the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff sits as his representative. And yesterday in the Parliament, at 4.30 I rose, opposite the Special Minister for State, Gary Nairn, who was in the chamber at the time as the Minister on duty and challenged him to deny that the Prime Minister had mislead the Parliament on this issue. You can’t have, I don’t think, 11 years of climate change inaction and indeed denial and scepticism and then spend tens of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ funds in the lead up to an election and have any credibility on climate change and water.

And I think that the Prime Minister has some very serious answers to give as to how his answers in Parliament match with the truth of what has occurred here and they are matters which will be pursued next week.