The latest federal Green Paper on Australia's agricultural sector has called for the expansion of dam construction in the country to shore up water supply for farming and pastoral purposes.
At the launch of the Green Paper in Canberra during the annual conference of the National Farmers Federation, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce reiterated Tony Abbott’s calls for Australians to overcome any lingering aversion to the building of dams.
“I think the Prime Minister has made it quite clear that we shouldn’t have a ‘dam phobia,’ to use his lexicon,” said Joyce. “This is an issue that the Australian people want us to take the next step.”
Joyce dismissed opponents to dam construction as hidebound hinderers of economic development and progress, pointing to the necessity of water infrastructure for safeguarding the future development of the agricultural sector.
“There are always going to be people who just don’t like the idea of progress, don’t like the idea of dams, who don’t like the idea of roads,” he said. “In fact, if they had their way, they don’t like the idea of us being on the land. That’s a great idea to have if you want to go broke.
“If you want security, you’ve got to build the capital that brings about that security. And dams do that.”
According to Joyce, the issue of securing water supply for farming purposes was a topic frequently raised by submissions for the Green Paper on agricultural competitiveness.
The Coalition made the construction of more dams a part of its federal election campaign, during which Abbott billed himself as an infrastructure Prime Minister in waiting.
In September, a ministerial task force headed by Joyce handed Abbott a shortlist of 30 dam construction or expansion projects throughout the country. Mooted projects the construction of a major new dam on the Fitzroy River and the expansion of the Nathan Dam in Queensland, as well as upgrades of the Chaffey Dam near Tamworth and the Menindee Lakes dam in NSW.
The next stage will be a roundtable hosted by Joyce to discuss options in relation to projects on the shortlist, not all of which are sure to receive government funding.
“In terms of those projects listed, some of the projects may not be feasible, or may be able to proceed with investment by states/territories or with private proponents,” said the paper. “Infrastructure projects seeking $100 million or more in Commonwealth funding must be submitted to Infrastructure Australia before being considered by the government.”