Sworn evidence by a senior Brumby Government employee reveals that studies undertaken in August 2008 into the Goulburn Murray Food Bowl Modernisation project found it was not feasible because necessary water savings could not be obtained, Leader of The Nationals Peter Ryan said.
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Mr Ryan said that even while John Brumby was boasting of vast water savings which could be pumped down the north-south pipeline to Melbourne, the Premier knew Cabinet had rejected the original business case because of the lack of water savings and had directed that the project manager ‘redevelop’ the document which was eventually resubmitted in June 2009.
The court transcripts released today come from hearings in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) over Mr Ryan’s request for the government to publicly release the Food Bowl Modernisation business case which was initially developed in August 2008.
In evidence given under oath, the Executive Manager of Governance and Corporate Planning at the government owned Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project (NVIRP) Harry De Jong said:
“ … at August 2008 a business case was put to the water cabinet and not endorsed by the water cabinet and, as a consequence of that, not approved by the treasurer and the minister. The cabinet directed that NVIRP go away and redevelop the business case, the principal issue at the time being that that business case suggested that it was not feasible to obtain the necessary water savings …” (VCAT transcript, 25/05/10, p45)
“This evidence reveals that John Brumby was deceiving Victorians. The Premier knew the water savings could not be found but, at the same time as directing the business case be redeveloped to fit Labor’s plans, John Brumby was falsely telling Victorians that the water savings were there,” Mr Ryan said.
“Northern Victorian food producing communities are being deprived of the water that underpins their livelihoods and secures Victoria’s food security because of John Brumby’s deception over a project he hijacked in a desperate move to justify pumping water to Melbourne, thereby breaking the promise Labor made at the 2006 state election.”
Mr Ryan said the evidence by Mr De Jong also revealed that John Brumby did not receive the redeveloped business case on the project until June 2009 – two years after the Brumby Government announced the north-south pipeline and even then the document did not tell the whole story.
“ … it (Cabinet) said, "Go away and redevelop the business case, which we did, and then that was resubmitted as requested in June 2009 and that business case was then - well, a version of that business case was released and made available on the website.” (VCAT transcript, 25/05/10, p45)
“In August 2008 the Brumby Government didn’t like the message its advisers were telling it because it didn’t match John Brumby’s water saving promises for the project. The advisers were cynically ordered to rework their numbers until they could create figures that matched the government’s spin.
“John Brumby must come clean and admit that he has lied to all Victorians about these water savings when all along he knew they were nothing more than a mirage,” Mr Ryan said.