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Water torture: Is Premier trying to buy a new term in office (using your money)?

Opinion

Queensland’s water security looms large as the dry El Nino pattern returns to our shores, but the state’s recycled water cringe  leaves the Premier with some explaining to do, writes Madonna King

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Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is considering spending up to $8 billion so that she doesn’t risk losing votes at next year’s election through discussions about recycled water.

It’s a costly election ploy, using your money – because that multi-billion bill will trickle onto your water bill for years to come.

Labor’s decision to embark on a multibillion dollar desalination plant is about ensuring water supply to the State’s south-east.

But it’s equally about two other issues that Labor is not talking about and is desperate to keep off the election agenda in the run down to the State poll, which is now only a year away.

Conjecture over dams and where they might be built to aid water supply is always a political hot potato; communities are displaced, and often with little notice, because of government inaction and lack of planning over years.

So State Labor does not want dams to be mentioned when the State poll is held next October.

But even more so, Labor does not want the issue of recycled water to climb up the election priorities, and onto talkback, and damage its hope for another term in power.

Proposing recycled water, or new water as it is called in some places, can be hard to sell, and Labor fears that press conferences about the safety of drinking water could lose the party every vote it will need to win.

And that’s why this week, and without any notice, Queenslanders are being told they might have to fund a new costly venture: not because there aren’t other alternatives (because there are), but because this is the most politically palatable course of action for a party wanting to be re-elected.

So what do we know, apart from the fact that we will have to fund the Government’s inaction?

Very little. A big new desalination plant will be built somewhere, but we are not sure where. It will be very, very costly, but we’re not sure just how costly. It will provide water, but we are not sure how much water.

That’s because the Government says it is hard to make assumptions. But isn’t that exactly what it is doing in believing voters aren’t ready for an open discussion about the use of recycled water?

It is a genuine alternative, and is now used in cities and states and countries around the world – including in the UK, Singapore and several American states.

Indeed, almost any Queenslander who has travelled will have quenched their thirst with water that has been treated to such a degree that is is probably safer to drink than many alternatives.

But rather than educate the public and discuss the issue in a mature way, the Government has decided to pour bucket loads of money into a desalination plant. In its view, it would be a cheaper option – than losing the election.

City of Moreton Bay Mayor Peter Flannery was on the money when he pointed out that we have alternatives – like the Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme – “currently gathering dust’’.

“It’s history repeating itself. They’re just not planning ahead; it’s another stalling tactic wrapped up in yet another business case,’’ Flannery said.

“Any new spend is a waste of money when we have a system in place and key infrastructure projects crying out for funding.’’

And therein lies another problem for the State Government, a year out from an election.

How is it possible to build this, along with the promised hospitals, youth detention centre, social housing to assist record levels of homeless, a new beaut inner-city stadium after the Gabba is knocked down, and the raft of other huge projects needed to host the 2032 Olympic Games?

It’s not. Ask a tradie, a builder, a project manager, a supplier or an infrastructure expert.

So what promise is set to be broken? And will we need to wait until after October next year – when the election will be held – to find that out?

Annastacia Palaszczuk needs to answer that question, so voters have all the facts in front of them when they tick a box next year.

 

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