Deputy PM Michael McCormack (Photo: Twitter)

April 30, 2019

by Anne Miller

The Federal Coalition has promised to establish a “National Water Grid” if re-elected at the May 18 poll and, echoing the Bradfield Scheme, examine “large-scale water diversion projects” for rural Australia.

A new statutory body would be responsible for strategic planning and project management for water policy and water infrastructure across Australia.

Deputy Prime Minister and Nationals leaders Michael McCormack said the first order of business for the new authority would be “to look at how large-scale water diversion projects could be established to deliver reliable and cost-effective water to farmers and regional communities”.

Mr McCormack said the National Water Grid would:

  • Bring together the world’s best scientists to harvest and harness water in the best way possible to ensure that decisions regarding water and water infrastructure by future State and Federal governments are based on best available science, not on political agendas.
  • Develop a Water Grid that will provide the pipeline of all established, current and future water infrastructure projects and then identify the missing links.
  • Use the best available science to examine how large-scale water diversion projects could be established to deliver reliable and cost effective water to farmers and regional communities.

* * *

Water issues and the so-called “Bradfield Scheme” to re-divert water to western Queensland have been raised by several parties during the current election campaign.

Pauline Hanson’s One Nation has been pushing for a “hybrid Bradfield Scheme” which it says would increase the water storage capacity of inland Australia, drought-proof many areas, help fix the issues in the Murray-Darling river system and offer opportunities for new hydroelectricity projects.

Senator Fraser Anning’s Conservative National Party has been campaigning to nearly triple the size of the Bradfield Scheme to get water to Barcaldine, Richmond, Winton and Aramac.

Katter’s Australia Party has also championed a revised version of the Bradfield Scheme.

Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party voted to fund the Bradfield Scheme in a motion put to the Senate by Pauline Hanson in February. This vote was lost 46-4 with only One Nation senators, UAP and Senator Anning supporting it. Queensland LNP senators were absent for the vote.

The Bradfield Scheme to divert water from the coastal rivers to inland Queensland was proposed in 1938 by engineer Dr J.J.C. (John) Bradfield, best known for designing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Brisbane’s Storey Bridge.

He envisaged diverting water from the coastal Tully, Herbert, and Burdekin rivers across the Great Dividing Range to supply the Flinders and Thompson rivers and Torrens Creek.

Since then, the proposal has been raised and discussed multiple times by politicians but has so far been dismissed because of cost and environmental concerns.

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