THE awarding of $5 million in the latest Regional Development Australia Fund towards upgrading the Torres Strait sea walls is a “cruel hoax” that will give the government an excuse to do absolutely nothing, says Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch.
Mr Entsch condemned the timing of the announcement, which comes just days after he tabled a second Private Member’s Motion in Parliament calling for the government to honour its 18 August 2011 commitment to rebuild the dilapidated sea walls, and which was due to be debated in the next sitting week on 18 June.
“This is purely a political solution, they’re saying they’re going to put up $5 million but they haven’t told us where they’re going to get the other $7 million from,” Mr Entsch said.
“They’ve also said the State Government has to put in $12 million. Does that mean to say that none of this work can be done until the state commits $12 million?
“They know that Anna Bligh has sent the State Government almost bankrupt – they’re going to use this as an excuse to do nothing.”
Referring to today’s joint media release from Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin, Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean and Queensland Senator Jan McLucas, Mr Entsch added that;
“If anyone is going to be credited with this it certainly shouldn’t be Macklin or McLucas or Crean, it should be TSRA Member for Saibai Ron Enosa and TSIRC Mayor Fred Gela. They’ve been working with me on this and they are the only two people who should get any credit.”
Mr Entsch said the “smoke and mirrors” announcement reflected the hypocrisy of Minister Crean’s attitude towards federal funding of the sea walls, and his radical backtrack on the issue last year.
“In March 2011, when I tried to put up the first Torres Strait sea walls Private Member’s Motion, Mr Crean’s office intervened and asked me not to do it because although he was inclined to support it, he needed time to find which ‘pot of money’ it could come out of,” Mr Entsch explained.
“I delayed it until August, at which time it was passed with bipartisan support, and I wrote and thanked him for that.
“Then, in December he comes back and tells me it’s ‘inappropriate’ for it to come from RDAF and was instead the responsibility of the local councils and state government.
“Yet today, it seems that it is in the RDA funding mix again the only project in North Queensland to get funding, but the amount is less than a quarter of what’s needed.”
Mr Entsch said it was “nothing but a cruel joke for the people of the Torres Strait”.
“Crean’s inactivity and broken promises last year saw the floods come through at Christmastime and the New Year, and another significant portion of the cemetery was lost,” he said.
“But at the same time the government can spend more than $160 million helping micro-Pacific nations battle climate change issues it’s farcical.”
Click here to see the motion that was tabled in parliament last week.