QUESTIONS have been raised over Acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce’s decision to award a $3m Queensland dam feasibility study contract to a high-ranking Liberal National Party member.
The money for the study on the Urannah Dam, near Collinsville, will be conducted by a consortium of businesses, one of which is owned by John Cotter Jr, a state executive of Queensland LNP.
A spokesman for Mr Joyce told the ABC that the consortium had been recommended by the Queensland Labor state government.
“Questions about the selection of the consortium should be referred to the Queensland government," he said.
However, the Queensland government said it had played no role in selecting the successful applicants for funding and merely forwarded all the applications it had received.
In a letter to Mr Joyce in January this year Queensland’s Water Supply Minister Mark Bailey emphaised that “whilst the Queensland Government will be forwarding all applications it receives this does not indicate any formal endorsement or support for particular projects”.
The National Water Infrastructure Development Fund guidelines said all applications would be assessed by a panel of “technical expert assessors”.
The guidelines also said the "Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources [Barnaby Joyce] will be the final decision-maker".
Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the decision to select the consortium was concerning. “It does appear that this process lacks rigour, and therefore, leaves itself exposed to charges that there are jobs for the boys here,” he said.
Mr Cotter dismissed any suggestions of political favouritism and said an independent assessment process looked at each proposal. “The facts are, the monies are being managed by the state of Queensland.” he said..
“It is very clear that the Department of Energy and Water Supply (DEWS) is the state agency managing the funds under agreements with the Federal Government.”