The Haughton Pipeline near Ross River Dam. Picture: Shae Beplate.
The Haughton Pipeline near Ross River Dam. Picture: Shae Beplate.

ScoMo under pressure to provide business case on pipeline

THE Townsville community and, in particular, Townsville City Council will be carefully watching the Federal Government's process as it organises a business case on the second stage of the Haughton Pipeline duplication.

The Commonwealth pledged to provide up to $200 million to the water security project last month following a report by the Townsville Water Security Taskforce that indicated if stage two was done at the same time as stage one, there would be a cost saving of $55 million.

At the time, it was undoubtedly policy on the run and the timing of the announcement was chosen to beat the Federal Opposition, which had already pledged $100 million, to the punch to fund the lot.

The beauty of being in government meant Prime Minister Scott Morrison could make the funding pledge outside of the election cycle whereas the Labor commitment required the party to be elected first.

Townsville City Council Mayor Jenny Hill welcomed the announcement but it's fair to say she's also been cynical of it and the Federal Government's need for a business case to proceed.

The Commonwealth does deserve the benefit of the doubt and we have to believe it when Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Dawson MP George Christensen and candidate for Herbert Phillip Thompson say the government absolutely intends to get on with the job.

And it's not in the community's best interests to get caught up in the Coalition versus Labor politics at play in that space.

But the goalposts have shifted since the announcement last month.

The community was led to believe the business case was a box-ticking exercise. It was suggested the council would do it but now it's become a drawn out process.

The government needs to ensure the tender process is complete in early January with the business case complete by the end of January so the council can proceed with the project.

Any stalling would serve only to damage the Coalition's reputation in the community and give Labor an opportunity to capitalise.

We will be keeping a close eye on this project.