The Queensland government’s decision to abandon its referendum on recycling drinking water from treated sewage – because the water shortage is too acute and there’s no time to waste – will probably be cited as an example of government autocracy or even dumb politics.

It is neither. Rather, it’s an example of what governments are supposed to do – govern. Be decisive in the interests of the electorate. Accept the mandate and exercise it.

The same applies to Peter Beattie’s blunt and aggressive sales job — “These are ugly decisions … but you either drink water or you die … There’s no choice … It’s liquid gold … it’s a matter of life and death”. Beattie is doing what he’s paid to do: communicate.

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Queenslanders should be relieved they have a government prepared to shortcut the “system” to ensure they get water that is treated just like Orange County’s “toilet-to-tap” project which will purify enough sewage water to serve for 140,000 families.

The real referendum question in Queensland should be: do you want to drink recycled water or no water at all. It’s a question Peter Beattie answered, with alacrity, on behalf of everyone.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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