Pumped hydro, dam funds missing as Nats’ infrastructure promises drain away
The Federal Government $1.47 billion infrastructure program in Queensland has shredded the National Party’s wish list for Inland Rail and dams, with the $3 billion Urannah Dam pumped hydro scheme appearing to be among the political victims.
Workers on the Inland Rail project
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers has warned that the Government “can’t have money sprayed around in an unnecessary or untargeted way” and a host of projects promised by the Coalition were likely to suffer, including $7 billion in dam funding for Queensland.
The Albanese Government has a $9.6 billion national program that it has said it would announce in the upcoming Budget, but key schemes were missing. The Hells Gate dam in Townsville, the Urranah Dam project and funding for the Paradise Dam were all part of the Morrison Government’s pledge to the regions, but appear to have been scrapped or stalled because they did not appear in a government list of projects.
However, the State Government said the funds for Paradise Dam were guaranteed.
Urannah Dam was a proposal from Bowen River Utilities, headed by John Cotter who has also been a senior office holder within the LNP. It received a pledge of $500 million from the Morrison Government earlier this year for the project that would include pumped hydro.
The scheme was also missing from the State Government’s energy plan which proposed two other pumped hydro projects. The company was also anticipating a firming up of an offtake agreement from one of the State Government’s generator companies. It was much further ahead in planning than the two State Government schemes.
The company has yet to respond.
The extension of the Inland Rail project to Gladstone also appears to have been scrapped. It was a project championed by former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce but attracted considerable criticism over cost and viability and the Federal Government recently set up an independent review of the entire Inland Rail, to be headed by Dr Kerry Schott.
The Hells Gate Dam, near Townsville, was promised $5.4 billion from the Coalition before environmental approvals were completed. It too, seems to be missing from the Government’s funding list along with the $678 million promised for the Outback Way road from Winton to Laverton.
Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said some projects had been “re-profiled” so that their funding timelines had been pushed back.
She said the Morrison Government had made promises without considering how to fund them, including the commuter car park scheme.
“They promised car parks that could never be built, and also tripled the budget for Inland Rail and blew out the timetable,” King said.
“They sidelined, ignored and then stacked the Infrastructure Australia Board with political appointments.
“And for years they pretended money was in the budget for zombie projects such as the East-West link in Melbourne and the Perth Freight Link.
“We are putting sense back into infrastructure planning and delivery.”
The Budget would include $200 million to upgrade the Bruce Highway between Dohles Rocks Road and Anzac Avenue, expanding the road from six to eight lanes and building on/off-ramps at the southern end.
There is also funding to complete detailed planning works for the next stage of the Ipswich Motorway.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said sound and planned infrastructure investment in Queensland would creates jobs, build opportunity and unlock economic growth and productivity for our cities and our regions.
“It’s about making journeys quicker, but also making sure Queenslanders can get home to their families safely,” he said.
“Through our first Budget, my team is getting on with the job of delivering projects in consultation with Infrastructure Australia and all levels of Government to make a real difference to the lives of Australians.”