The Bradfield Scheme has long been championed by Katter’s Australian Party founder, Bob Katter, and now the party’s only Senator is repeating the call to build the massive water diversion scheme first suggested 80 years ago.
Fraser Anning, who replaced Malcolm Roberts as a One Nation senator last November, split from the party and its leader, Pauline Hanson, immediately after entering parliament, sitting as an independent until early June, when it was announced that he’d joined KAP.
He was welcomed by Mr Katter, who said the Anning and Katter families “were from Charters Towers before there was a Charters Towers”, and last week Senator Anning, whose electoral office is in Brisbane, visited Townsville, Charters Towers, Hughenden, Richmond, Winton, Longreach and Barcaldine.
His message to “build the Bradfield” was an easy sell to a region that has long dreamed of a drought-proofed future through either the Bradfield Scheme or a variety of other suggestions aired over the years.
“The best drought relief we can give these people is water,” Senator Anning said.
“We don’t need to bring truckloads of hay up. If they’ve got water they’ll look after themselves.
“They can grow their crops and store enough bales of lucerne during the good times.
“Instead of having to watch all their cattle and sheep die every drought, we’ll be able to drought proof the country and that’ll save the country millions.”
The Bradfield Scheme would divert water from the Tully, the Herbert and the Burdekin Rivers, across the Great Dividing Range into the Flinders and then the Thomson River, eventually flowing to Lake Eyre.
Senator Anning described it as a “forever solution”, saying that while water was a state issue, it would be solved at a federal level.
He hoped the voting block of himself plus fellow disaffected One Nation stablemate, Brian Burston, now parliamentary leader of Clive Palmer’s relaunched United Australia Party, Australian Conservatives leader, Cory Bernardi, and Liberal Democrat, David Leyonhjelm, would “win some stuff”.
“We can raise the Burdekin wall 14.5m, the Hells Gate Dam and probably the Herbert Dam.
“It’s such a no-brainer. I was over in the Sacramento Valley – they have 10 million acres under irrigation – every field for hundreds of kilometres has people working in it.
“Feasibility studies say we’re not going to get a return on investment in five or 10 or 15 years – nation-building exercises look at 50 or 100 or 150 years.”
The $10b needed to build a scheme such as the Bradfield could be diverted from “that stupid railway line to nowhere under the Brisbane River”, which Senator Anning said wasn’t needed until 2035, according to the Productivity Commission.
Apart from building big infrastructure, he was promoting the need for giving tax breaks to people in drought, and “getting the banks under control”.
The word from his brother-in-law, Richmond mayor, John Wharton, was that the big truckloads taking cement and sulphur west to Mount Isa and copper concentrate east to Townsville were causing major damage to the Flinders Highway.
Cr Wharton suggested another $50m a year was needed to keep the highway in good repair, “to keep the money flowing down to the south, the millions and billions of royalties, so they can look after the building of the Brisbane area”, in Senator Anning’s words.
He said the issue pushed by state LNP MP, Lachlan Millar, for dialysis treatment at Longreach and Emerald, had been raised with himself, as had the cost of airfares to travel east.
The Senator also had strong views on immigration, saying he hadn’t changed his politics from the views that originally attracted him to One Nation.
Saying he was anti-immigration and calling for a moratorium until infrastructure had been built to “catch up with the number of people coming into the place”, he said he was in favour of white South African farmers because it was “the right sort of immigration”.
“It’s not the immigration of people who go straight onto our welfare system,” he said.
Senator Anning said he was trying to open a second office in either Townsville or Cairns, because he wanted to be close to where he came from.
He also said he would be doing more air travel with state KAP leader, Rob Katter.