Hills gets chatty in 2011. Regarding Adam Hills and his new ABC project. Whispers are it is a talkshow/variety show and it was part of his agreement to come back and do one more series of Spicks and Specks.

Thanks polling workers, from Crikey. During the recent election I worked at the local polling booth as a returning officer, as I have done for years. For the first time I have just received a letter from the AEC thanking me for my work, etc. And would you believe they have included a quote from Crikey, which I thought you might like to hear. As Bernard Keane remarked:

“….the AEC has yet again demonstrated why it is the best electoral outfit in the world, running a very close election with expedition, efficiency and integrity. There are always hiccups, but when you see how it’s done in comparable countries, you can only be amazed at how well the AEC does it.”

Thought you should share some of the credit in the fact they have written to thank the 68,000 polling officials, probably for the first time ever.

Information comes at a price. Glad to see the Tasmanian public sector embracing the new Right to Information Act. From a new information management plan at a large public sector institution: “The new Right to Information Act (RTI) will replace the current FOI Act in July. The RTI Act goal is to promote access by encouraging organisations to be proactive in their release of information. This change allows us to limit RTI exposure by offering information for sale and hence turning the existing FOI overhead into a revenue stream.”

Securing our food — except rice. The food security issue (for home consumers) is important, which is what Barnaby Joyce seems to be worried about. But homeland food security does not include rice, cotton or indeed oranges grown for export. Or, animal husbandry (cows) for fancy cheese export. According to ABC Radio, over 70% of our Murray Darling irrigation produce is grown and sold for export overseas. Probably at a vastly discounted rate.

This discount is “exported water” — Joyce should get real. Us city dwellers are saying to him: stop irrigated rice and cotton growing in the upper reaches of the MD basin straight away. Let us buy rice from the monsoonal Thai and Indo regions which is great for international relations (I have always bought non-Australian-grown rice). Then change our agricultural practices so we eat less meat and consume less milk from the MD basin, but get a whole lot more grain, lentils and vegetable produce using less water. Chick peas and chilli are subsuming your silly meat-oriented culture, Barnaby.

How to modernise the food bowl. I haven’t ready anything yet about Victoria’s food bowl modernisation project, which was an expensive upgrade of the irrigation system in northern Victoria (the food bowl). It has been criticised for being a waste of money, and also because of the north-south pipeline which aims to send saved water to Melbourne if necessary. But in the light of the debate about environmental flows to the Murray, I would like to know if the project means Victoria is in a better position than other states, because so much money has already been invested in improving irrigation infrastructure here. Will it mean less salinity for instance? Less waste? Will Victorian farmers be in a better position to survive the possible cuts to water entitlements? Or none of the above?

Peter Fray

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