DEBATE over a proposed water loan scheme put forward in Tuesday’s federal budget announcement is reaching boiling point.
On Tuesday a $2 billion Water Infrastructure Loan Facility was put forward for the construction of dams and pipelines across Australia.
Greens candidate Mercurius Goldstein claims the scheme will be open to exploitation by private companies.
But New England MP and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Barnaby Joyce says that will not be the case.
Mr Goldstein said the federal government was putting vital public infrastructure at risk with the scheme.
“Despite the proven failure and even fraud investigations that have arisen from the government’s loans to private colleges for vocational education, now they want to loan more money to private companies for our critical water infrastructure needs.
“Water is too important for the government to leave it to
private companies,” Mr Goldstein said.
“But Mr Joyce seems determined to allow billions in taxpayer-funded loans to private companies to build dams that may never fill, or create pipelines to nowhere.”
But Mr Joyce fired back at Mr Goldstein’s claims, saying the Greens’ candidate was “incorrect in his assertions”.
“The $2 billion loans facility will provide loans to state and territory governments, not private companies,” he said.
“Concessional loans will only be available to state and territory governments.
“The facility will not lend directly to private investors. State and private investor consortiums will be considered but the loan facility will be with the state government.
“The Commonwealth will not lend more than 50 per cent of the total value of a water infrastructure including any grant funding provided through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.”
Inland rail project steaming ahead
NEW England MP Barnaby Joyce has touted the $594 million spend announced in the federal budget for the Inland Rail project as a win for regional Australians, despite the fact the line will not pass through Armidale.
Mr Joyce described it as another step towards carving a “corridor of commerce” through regional Australia.
However, Armidale produce will have to be trucked to the line and may have to travel as far as Moree to be transported by rail.
“I am delighted to be part of a team that understands the incredible economic boost it will create throughout regional Australia,” Mr Joyce said.
He said the Inland Rail would be able to carry the extra two million tonnes of freight between Melbourne and Brisbane in 2050.
It was hoped the line would pass through Tamworth and up to the Northern Tablelands.
But it was decided the track would head up to Queensland via Narromine, near Dubbo, going up to Moree and crossing the boarder near Goondiwindi.
The $594 million is expected to go towards land acquisition activities, starting next year.
The project has a 10-year timeframe.
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