JOHN TAYLOR: The future of the controversial Traveston Crossing dam, proposed near Gympie will be thrashed out Federal Senate committee hearings which should start in about a month. The committee is expected to visit the area to hear from locals and the state government about the pros and cons of the project. Queensland Senator Ron Boswell will be participating in the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs committee but already he's opposed to the plan, saying there are better alternatives available. I spoke with him earlier.
JOHN TAYLOR: Senator Boswell if the evidence from the senate inquiry comes down in favour of the dam will you support it?
SENATOR RON BOSWELL, QUEENSLAND SENATOR: Well I don’t think it will come down in favour of the dam. There are so many things I can see wrong with putting the dam there. But the dam is only going to be five metres deep. The evaporation off that will be horrendous. Then of course you’ve got so many other things like the silting problem that’s on an alluvial plain. I’m sure that there are better places to put the dam. I’m sure there are places around Gympie like the Borumba Dam if you put the walls up there you’ll get certainly a thousand mega litres which is the same as the Traveston Dam.
JOHN TAYLOR: So you’re pretty confident then that the senate inquiry will find that there better options available. But the Queensland Government says it’s as committed to the dam as ever. So what then is the purpose of this senate inquiry?
SENATOR BOSWELL: The purpose of the inquiry is the people around Gympie and around the Mary Valley and around the shires adjoining it want the opportunity to find out information that they haven’t been able to get from the Beattie government. They also want to ask questions to people, public servants from the Beattie government and they also want to provide information to a recognised senate inquiry because they believe they have many things that need answers and they’re not forthcoming.
JOHN TAYLOR: The Queensland government says this dam is critical to keeping the taps running in the south east corner. Are you concerned that in running this senate inquiry you run the risk of a political backfire? There’s five marginal liberal seats in Brisbane and all those people want a guaranteed water supply, is it possible that you could be seen as anti dam?
SENATOR BOSWELL: I don’t think we’re seen as anti dam and I’m sure the senate inquiry isn’t going to hold up the commencement of the dam. And um but people will and should have the right to know what is going on. After all it’s their properties that are going to be submerged, it’s their properties that sometimes have been in the family for over three or four generations. They want some answers too and this is a good way that we can get them.
JOHN TAYLOR: Is it true that a collection of senior liberals argued against the senate inquiry in the party room because they were worried about a political backlash?
SENATOR BOSWELL: Well you never ever discuss what happens in a party room. But let me say this there are just as many liberals wanted it as nationals. There were some liberals opposed it but there were just as many liberals wanted it, the inquiry to go ahead. And if you look at the notice of motion it was put in my name, Senator Joyce’s name and Senator Trood’s name. So there is support there from the liberal party.
JOHN TAYLOR: Do you think though that in holding the senate inquiry that you’re giving people false hope?
SENATOR BOSWELL: No. I’m not giving the people false hope because I have said it will not stop the dam going ahead. David Gibson the member for Gympie has said that and the people up in Gympie that are the peak body for this organisation also know that and also respect that.
JOHN TAYLOR: How much is it going to cost though?
SENATOR BOSWELL: Well democracy never comes cheap. I don’t know what it will cost. But it won’t cost a lot I wouldn’t imagine but I’m not going to put a figure on it. The Senators are paid whether they go up there or do other electoral duties. But that’s not that point that’s what you have a parliament for, that’s what you have members of parliament for to respond to the needs of their electorates and that’s what we’ve done.
JOHN TAYLOR: If I can quickly turn to another topic Biosecurity Australia has released a draft import risk assessment on bananas from the Philippines and it’s found that they can come in provided that they meet a certain number of quite strict criteria, do you think that we’re going to see bananas from the Philippines into Australia before the end of the year?
SENATOR BOSWELL: Absolutely no chance of seeing bananas in Australia before the end of the year and I would say it would be very doubtful whether you’ll ever see bananas in Australia from the Philippines ever. I mean some of the requirements are so stringent that they’ll be hard to meet. For instance every banana’s got to be dipped in a bath of chlorine. They can only come from places in the Philippines that there are no pests. Well I don’t know where that would be. The requirements that Biosecurity have put on bananas it would be very difficult to ever have them in Australia.
JOHN TAYLOR: But if the Philippines could meet them would you support free trade?
SENATOR BOSWELL: I always support free trade but I’ve found because I’ve been involved in this for so long that it’s almost impossible it is impossible to stop hitch hikers which are mealy bugs, and spiders and bugs getting down in the hands of the bananas and you’d almost have to brush them individually. So I just don’t believe that you could safely bring bananas into Australia. They’re in a bunch and hitch hikers get down in the bunch and you can’t get them out unless you individually get them out. So look I know that the banana growers would want a negative answer but they’ve got three months to put their response in and I can bet you it will be vigorous and we will be supporting it.