Mar 24, 2006

Turnbull washes his hands of Toowoomba water recycling decision

Turnbull washes his hands of Toowoomba water recycling decision


24 March 2006

Malcolm Turnbull’s first decision as John Howard’s Parliamentary Secretary for Water is not to make a decision.

The Howard Government’s proposed referendum over water recycling in Toowoomba is a failure of national leadership. Both John Howard and Malcolm Turnbull like to say they support water recycling, but when it came to the crunch they went to water.

Toowoomba is running out of water and John Howard has run out of leadership.

Toowoomba Council and the Queensland Government support the Toowoomba water recycling project.

The National Water Commission supports the Toowoomba water recycling project.

On 30 January 2006, John Howard said he supported water recycling and that water “is a national issue as well as a local issue”, but when he had to make a decision over a water recycling project, Howard chose political convenience over leadership.

Since early December 2005, John Howard has had on his desk a strong recommendation from the National Water Commission to support Toowoomba’s water recycling project. It seems that Minister Ian Macfarlane’s opposition to water recycling has won out and now the Government has no position on water recycling.

The Howard Government’s position on water recycling is as clear as mud.

The Howard Government policy does not guarantee anything for Toowoomba except a delay in how it deals with its water crisis.

It is unclear who will pay for the substantial cost of a referendum. If the referendum is lost, then what is the solution for Toowoomba’s water crisis? Presumably Malcolm Turnbull has an answer.

The Project Information circulated by Malcolm Turnbull reinforces what an extraordinary abrogation of responsibility this non-decision is. The Project Information states “Urban water management objectives of the National Water Initiative will be advanced through the implementation of this project.”

Does today’s approach mean all future funding for infrastructure projects will be contingent on a local referendum? This non-decision is a failure of national leadership.