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Jun 3, 2011

Murray-Darling: keep the pollies away

The latest Murray-Darling report shows why politicians can't be trusted with serious policy-making.


The House of Reps Regional Australia committee’s report on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a showcase example of why politicians shouldn’t be let near serious policy making.

Hastily put together by a panicked — well, more panicked than usual — Government after it hopelessly mismanaged the response to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority guide, the Committee brought together a number of regional MPs, led by Tony Windsor, to channel community anger away from Labor.

The result is more or less what you’d expect if you asked a bunch of politicians to develop a policy on an intensely divisive and complex social, economic and environmental issue.

The most bizarre aspect of the committee report is the lengths to which it goes to berate the Murray-Darling Basin Authority over how it handled the release of the Guide.  The Authority, indeed, could have done a better job of explaining itself, but the Committee devotes an entire chapter to complaining about how the Authority allowed itself to be misinterpreted, leading to intense anger in MDB communities — remember the footage of those idiots burning copies of the Guide?

The Committee complains:

A common and significant misconception about the Guide is that it is the actual Basin Plan. However, the Guide is simply an expression of the MDBA’s thinking and methodology behind the preparation of a proposal. It is nothing more than a complex discussion paper. The Guide has no official status in regards to the Basin Plan that will be put to Parliament for consideration… However, the mode used by the MDBA to prepare and communicate the Guide did nothing to disabuse a common view that it was the final proposal.

The report goes on to chip the MDBA for, among other sins:

  • “presenting the Guide as a glossy, full colour print document and calling it a Guide to the Basin Plan, rather than a discussion paper or working document”
  • “presenting the Guide to the community through a series of ‘community information sessions’ rather than consultative workshops”
  • “failing to address misconceptions about the intent of the Basin Plan”.

In contrast, the report describes the “warm welcome” the Committee received, and how constructive communities were when the Committee consulted with them. Politicians and sensible, mature rural communities 1, out-of-touch bureaucrats and their glossy documents 0.

By the time the report chides the the Authority because it “repeatedly and consciously failed to adequately articulate how the Basin Plan would be realised once it passed the Commonwealth Parliament”, it feels like we’re in a particularly obscure Python sketch.

Let’s go back to the original document that so enraged communities. It’s called A Guide to the Proposed Basin Plan, which might have told even the casual reader that it was, um, a guide, for a proposed plan. The very first words of the document, in the introduction to the executive summary, are “the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (the Authority) is preparing the Guide to the proposed Basin Plan to present proposals to the community for discussion.”

Two paras later, the Authority says “the Authority is interested in the views of the community and stakeholders on the proposals in the Guide and on the quality of data and evidence used and the analysis that has been undertaken. The Authority will consider any feedback in finalising the Basin Plan.”

Just how much clearer did the MDBA have to be about what the purpose of the document was? What of course it didn’t figure on was irrigators, politicians and the media trying to whip up a frenzy about the document in an attempt — now plainly successful — to derail the only serious effort in Australian history to sustainably manage the Murray-Darling Basin.

The only serious mistakes the MDBA made were to treat communities as intelligent adults capable of reading the first paragraph of a document, and failing to be aware of the agendas of other players in the process to confuse, obscure and attack.

The other example of why you should never let politicians near policy making is that the overall recommendations of the report are that water buybacks should be dramatically cut back — indeed, it recommends the Government “immediately cease all non-strategic water purchase in the Murray-Darling Basin”. Instead, the committee wants a dramatic ramping-up of irrigation infrastructure investment.

Irrigation investment is the pain-free solution to the MDB’s woes. It reduces water loss, freeing up some water for the environment. Irrigators like it because it’s effectively a handout of capital to them to upgrade their infrastructure. Communities like it because it means areas don’t have water allocations sold away and it injects money into the local economy.

Trouble is, as the Productivity Commission has found, it’s also far more expensive than buying water. Last year, the PC looked at mechanisms for recovering water, and concluded:

Recent experience is that the cost per ML of government efforts to recover water for the environment through infrastructure upgrades is highly variable, but in most cases exceeds the cost for recovery through purchasing… the Australian Government may pay up to four times as much for recovering environmental water through infrastructure upgrades than through water purchases…  Funding irrigation infrastructure upgrades is generally not a cost-effective way for governments to recover water for the environment.

The PC also anticipated the argument that irrigation investment by government supports regional communities, pointing out there were most cost-effective ways of supporting communities as well.

Did the Committee acknowledge the PC’s criticisms in any way? The PC is only referenced once in the whole report, with a reference on water buybacks from a separate report. Instead, the Committee report serves up a bunch of anecdotes about great infrastructure investment can be, mostly sourced — you’ll never guess — from irrigators.

And just as an aside, here’s a nice example of media double standards. The whole MDB water initiative is costing billions of dollars. We’ve seen how the media reacts to claims of inefficiency in other big government programs, even when independent bodies like the ANAO discredit them.

We’ve seen the froth-mouthed fury from The Australian and the ABC’s “Online Investigation Unit” and 4 Corners over programs like the HIP and the BER — remember claims that the implementation of the BER saw NSW paying a whole 6% more for its construction than other states?

So why haven’t we seen 80 times the media outrage about a program where, according to the Productivity Commission, billions are being wasted on spending initiatives that are four times more expensive than alternatives? What, doesn’t fit the media’s preferred narrative? Forget about it!

Of course a bunch of politicians like irrigation investment in the MDB. They get to hand out money. No one has to make hard decisions, like those communities that have already become more productive and efficient in their water use (which, to its credit, the Committee includes some reference to). The only people out of pocket are taxpayers, and they don’t know about it.

On the other hand, to give the Committee a little more credit, they have wisely called for the mining industry to be placed under the same obligations are other water users and for no further mining activities affecting water resources to be approved within the Basin until the impact is understood and mitigated. This is one issue of which regional and rural MPs are much more aware than the rest of us.

The clash between mining and agriculture, and the communities the latter supports, is only going to get worse and governments have already been too reactive in curbing the insatiable demands and negligence of mining companies.


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68 thoughts on “Murray-Darling: keep the pollies away

  1. Competitive Australia

    We can tinker around with MDB and water in general, but until we get serious about de-sal and nuclear power to pump it inland, we are waffling.

  2. Holden Back

    How discreet of you not to mention which politicians on the committee will happily hand out money from any colour of government with a smile and a photo opp.

    And kind of you not to suggest they were playing to their constituents by presenting outrageous behaviour and deliberate misrepresentation by a small group of farmers as acceptable because the MDBA failed in a near impossible to win them over with PR.

    Presenting anything not in your personal interests as the greatest outrage against all that is decenct – what a great trick!

  3. Billy Blogs

    I like to see a recommendation to have 1/3rd of Melbourne’s water pumped up the North/South pipeline for environmental flow purposes. Same from Sydney – just pump it over the divide.
    After all, if it is truly that critical then everyone should shoulder the pain.

  4. Greg Angelo

    I understand that the scientists involved in advising the MDBA have all resigned in protest at the handling of this situation

    Politicians of all persuasions in this debate are guilty of abrogating their responsibilities for the long-term management of Australia’s premier Inlandwaterway on the altar of political expediency, vote buying, malicious propaganda and sheer self-interested bloody mindedness.

    Anecdotal advice to never get between a politician and a pork barrel in the presence of a constituent is very appropriate.

  5. TormentedbytheDs

    Billy Blogs, Melbourne uses 340 odd Gigalitres a year so 1/3 is about 113 Gigalitres. I would assume similar figures for Sydney. Even with the magical Tony Windsor model it needs 2000 Gigalitres.

    Good try, but it isn’t enough.

  6. Acidic Muse

    Yeah, good idea Bernard. More media outrage is exactly what we need isn’t it.

    The primary reason this issue got so bent out of shape in the first place was the media response to a staged book burning. “Outrage” became the narrative because the media made it so. Because large sections of the Australian media obsessively masturbate over controversy as if were celebrity dwarf porn.

    Whether it’s putting a price on carbon, the mining tax debate or this one, most of the Australian media will always be inextricably drawn to placing whatever stage-managed outrage contrived by vested interests makes the best emotive content for the six o’clock News.

    But of course, like most journalists, you speak with a line that it’s all the politicians fault that we can’t have a serious substantive, thoughtful and mutually respectful public discourse around issues of such great importance to our nation’s future.

    How on earth can you criticise politicians for being reactive when large sections of the Australian media are constantly beating them around the head with whatever often completely contrived outrage that gets handed to them in a press kit by a vested interest group?

    For cooler heads to prevail in these debates, we actually need journalists to start focusing less on calling the horse race, less on the bumper sticker slogans, less on the hysterical theatrics and the politics of personal attrition … and more on the substance of the issues at hand viewed through the prism of our national interest, not how they impact the latest poll results.

  7. Carolyn Hicks

    Irrigation investment is not necessarily the magic solution it’s cracked up to be either. As Lin Crase has pointed out, when water is ‘lost’ from an irrigation channel, it doesn’t go to Mars. In many cases it eventually returns to a waterway. Before massively investing in upgrading infrastructure, you’d want to be very sure that the water you are supposedly losing isn’t already being accounted for somewhere else.

  8. Robert Barwick

    Bernard Keane outs himself–as a fascist! For “idiots” (burning the guide), read food producers, community members, citizens, and, above all, voters. Democracy gets in the way of your agenda, hey Bernard?

  9. AR

    inCOMPoz – what a great idea, nukes to pump desalinated water of the GDR. Other phantasists such as Bradfield, Idress, Alan Jones only suggested using coastal river water, the wimps.
    It’d be cheaper to use B double semis to cart Perrier & Evian.

  10. Robert Barwick

    Bradfield a “phantasist”? (I suppose you mean fantasist). The Harbour Bridge and underground rail are pretty useful fantasies.

  11. Apathy

    Bernard – good article and it’s nice to see someone do some investigative journalism. However, I think you let the media off lightly. My understanding from a person on the ground (it’s second/third hand info so there has probably been some embellishment along the way) was that the media were in the communities handing out copies and stoking the fire of rage, knowing full and well that farmers hadn’t read it and were probably never likely to either.

    I think you might need to amend your opening line to read:

    The House of Reps Regional Australia committee’s report on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a showcase example of why politicians AND THE MEDIA shouldn’t be let near serious policy making.

  12. ronin8317

    The dollar amount is not everything. Buying back water rights may be cheaper, however the extra water does nothing economical. In contrast, irrigation improvement will give us extra water without reducing our agricultural production capacity.

  13. geomac

    What I found curious about the reporting of the report burning by the farmers was the word outrage and furious. They looked like they were having trouble hiding the smirks while shouting mock anger. I reckon they still have a laugh about their prank over a beer. Laughing how they suckered the media , the government and some of the public in . Most of them didn,t even read the report which goes with the mind set of book burning. Don,t check the content , attack the ideas.

  14. Billy Blogs

    TormentedbytheDs – Every little bit helps. I realise it won’t fix the problem on its own, but city folk should contribute the same as those in the country. That goes for domestic and commercial. The other issue is that the MD has never had a regular water flow. It’s evolved over millions of years to take drought and flood. Go back 250 years when there were no storage’s and no farms. When it flooded, the water flowed down stream and out to sea. During drought it would dry up much faster than it does today.

  15. davidk

    I suppose we can expect to see a multi million dollar advertising campaign now about how the mining industry is being ruined by these so called reforms. The irrigators who screamed about how they would hurt get all they wanted while the river and the wider Australian public get nothing. No great surprise from a rural based independant but hardly worthy of the term ‘reform’. Maybe ‘ reform lite’

  16. AR

    Barwick – I assume you’ve heard of the Bradfield scheme for the rivers of northern NSW? A good example of why a cobbler should stick to his last.

  17. Holden Back

    Bily Blogs- Try selling the idea that the Murray Darling shouldn’t have a regular water flow again to these farmers. As for all the infrastructure we’ve put in place to ensure that it will have a regular flow what to do with that?

    We broke it, we bought it. Or more accurately, we now control almost every aspect of the river so we must consider all the resposibilities that brings carefully.

  18. Robert Barwick

    AR, no, I’ve heard of the Bradfield scheme for the rivers of northern Queensland, to divert the headwaters of the Tully River over the range and down through central Queensland into Lake Eyre. Abundant water for the inland, and hydro power along the way–fantastic!

  19. TormentedbytheDs

    Your right Holden

    Billy people in the city have been doing all that for years. The irrigators have a number for the enviromental flow for the system. It is ZERO. They see every drop that goes past as wasted. They want all the water for agriculture. The only real squabble is between themselves, from the QLD rice growers to the S.A. dairy farmers. The river system is history.

  20. Robert Barwick

    Davidk, the rivers are full now, and the “wider Australian public” gets… food!

  21. fredex

    I’m an irrigator on the Murray and I must say that I don’t always agree with what you write at this place.

    But this article is superb.

    The simple reality is that there is not enough inflow to sustain the unsustainable levels of irrigation that have become entrenched through blind political power and that as a result not only is the river doomed but the economy along the river including ironically the irrigation industry that is the root cause of the problem is doomed to deteriorate with the only question being the speed at which that will occur.

    Thanks for your article, we need lots more like this from the MSM.

  22. Competitive Australia

    @ Fredex

    We can tinker around with MDB and water in general, but until we get serious about de-sal and nuclear power to pump it inland, we are waffling.

    This will work and is a better spend than the NBN

  23. AR

    Barwick – Bradfield’scheme was about the Clarence & other northern NSW rivers and watering the interior of NSW.
    Ion L. Idriess,The Great Boomerang – a much neglected classic, and later others, proposed turning north Qld rivers like the Tully inland to moisture Qld’s interior.
    Not to replenish Lake Eyre, that has only been suggested (since the mid 70s on 2JJ) by the bloke who created Reverse Garbage Truck in Sydney.
    His suggestion was using sea water from the Spencer Gulf, flowing down via tunnels to Lake Eyre (15mts below sea level – NOT PUMPED) where the huge evaporation rate, >10 cubic metres per metre pa) would put megatons of water vapour into the air to be driven NE by the prevailing winds and precipitate on the western slopes of the GDR or the southern slopes of the Barkly Ranges when it would begin the inexorable journey (because of the tilt of the entire Lake Eyre Drainage Basin – 1,500sqkms, about 1/7 of Oz’s land area) back to the plughole of Lake Eyre, as the recent rains in Qld have been doing since they fell.
    It would only fall as real rain if it somehow became mixed with dust particles on the 2,000kms journey.

  24. Clytie

    In the Riverland (SA), we weren’t outraged at all by the Draft Guide, but gee, somehow in the media we were.

    We knew damn well that this was a do-or-die issue. We’d had five years of drought, the Murray Mouth was closed (no water going into the sea) and the Murray itself was like an unflushed toilet.

    Invest in irrigation infrastructure? Why should the taxpayers fund this, when it’s just good management by farmers?

    When I came here 25 years ago, there was no channel irrigation left in the Riverland. Everyone had invested in sprinklers. In recent years, most have upgraded to drip irrigation. Yup, it costs money, but so does water.

    So now we’re seeing proposals that the taxpayer should fund the people upstream who haven’t bothered to move past channel irrigation? If they use huge amounts of water through this unsustainable choice, then they should pay more for water, have their water allocation cut, or be required to upgrade their irrigation setup. It is not the taxpayers’ responsibility.

    (For the commenter who said all evaporated water ends up somewhere, you’re right, but unless you’re between the sea and a mountain range the evaporated water is very unlikely to come back as rain or in your local water supply. So we have to make good use of it while we have it.)

  25. ihdvet

    Extract from job advertisement with the MDBA, as appeared on their website last month: “The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is an independent Government Authority responsible for the planning and integrated management of the water resources of the Murray-Darling Basin.” – blatant misrepresentation: Craig Knowles should look up the meaning of “independent”.

  26. fredex

    Sorry Competitive Australia but you are completely wrong.
    You have been sold a furphy.

    Desal is an enormously expensive environmentally destructive method of obtaining tiny irrelevant quantities of water in the wrong places at the wrong times for the wrong reasons and if all such minimal volumes of water was put into the river [which won’t happen] or used to replace water taken out of the river [which won’t happen] then the effect on the river will be virtually zero.

    The same applies for all other furphies [storm water capture for example] that are used by the irrigation lobby to hide the reality.

    So much water is taken out of the river by irrigators that there is not enough for the river.

    Thats the numbers.

    We must decrease the quantity of water taken out of the river by irrigators.
    We won’t [at least not in any meaningful quantities] and so the river will continue to degrade taking its toll on all other users [there are more people involved than just irrigators you know] including the irrigators themselves and we will only begin to wake up after irreversible damage has been done.
    We are probably at that point already of the damage I mean, not the awareness.

    The temporary respite that is current due to abnormally excellent rains of the past year, will be wiped out as the normal inflow returns which is well below sustainable levels for irrigation, urban and domestic needs, torism and recreation and last and least of all the river itself.

    People forget, or deliberately ignore, that in 2005 the dams along the river were near 100% full and yet within 18 months and for years thereafter until late last year the river was emptying, lagoons were dried out, irrigators were on quotas because there was insufficient water for their voracious apetites, tourism economy suffered and the river was dramatically degraded.

    That scenario will reoccur in the near future.

    Unless we dramatically decrease irrigation.

    Which ain’t gonna happen.

  27. Competitive Australia

    @ Fredex

    we need irrigation to produce food and to increase food production, as it will be our competitive advantage in the future, so we need to think OUTSIDE the box to get massive quantities

  28. Venise Alstergren

    Yep, the MSM of Oz wouldn’t know a complexity if they fell over it. This is what happens when they are paid by a mega-billionaire to write tripe. On the other hand they can only get away with murder because their audience is ill-educated, thinks of nothing but the footy, and is, inherently, dead lazy. Why else would these splodges of mutton read Andrew Bolt?

  29. Carolyn Hicks

    @Clytie – I totally agree with you – but in the interests of evidence-based policy (something sadly lacking in the recent stages of this process) I just want to push Lin Crase’s point a bit more. It’s about leakage and overflow as much as evaporative losses. Let me quote a bit:

    The literature contains a number of examples that highlight the fallacy of water savings on a basin level (see, for example, Perry 2007; 2008). Molle and Miranzadeh’s 2004 case study in Central Iran highlights the interconnectedness of water users in a closed basin. They conclude that micro level conservation through canal lining, did not eventuate in the expected water ‘savings’ but ‘only led to having more water spread and depleted locally to the detriment of users downstream’ (Molle and Miranzadeh 2004: 3). Until policy-makers understand that all water that ‘leaks’ from a channel does not automatically constitute a loss to the system as a whole then similar policy disappointments will occur in Australia.

    Crase, L. & O’Keefe, S. 2009, “The Paradox of National Water Savings”, Agenda, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 45-60

    I’m all for efficiency and making the best use of the water we have. But this ‘magic pudding’ solution will just appease the shouters and continue to avoid or worsen the real problem.

  30. fredex

    Wrong again.
    Another furphy.

    Some time ago Bernard here had the actual figures for the food produced by irrigation in the Murray Darling Basin.
    Its minimal, nowhere near the quantities that the irrigation lobby allows people to think.
    The “food bowl’ of SE Australia produces most of its food without irrigation.

    The main crop produced by irrigation along the river is money.

    Think along the lines of a hydroponic system in a semi-desert growing dollar notes for export.

    The wrong crops grown in the wrong places for the wrong reasons using the wrong methods.
    Grapes for example.
    There is a glut of grapes in Australia and quality wine producing grape vines are being bulldozed elsewhere because their value has dropped in recent years on the world market.
    But huge quantities of water are sprayed onto dry land on stinking hot windy days just to keep vines alive along the river. Only some of that water gets to the plants but hey, who cares.
    They have lots of water you see.
    The water seeps into the water table collecting salt and other nasties [fertilizers,insecticides] and back into the river and has to be removed at taxpayer expense before its fit for humans to drink.

    Look CA you appear to be regurgutating myths and furphies emanating from the irrigation lobby.
    You need to think outside the box and inform yourself of the reality not the spin.
    If you wish to continue the furphies thats your right but please don’t address them to me, I’ve heard them all before and its boring.
    Sorry to be so harsh but …

  31. davidk

    @ Robert Barwick
    So all this stuff about the river system being in decline, murray river mouth being closed and river red gums struggling to cope with the lack of water is all crap because irrigators have been soo responsible over the years. All we need do is wait until the next extraordinary rain event and everything will be hunky dory. Please let the good people of Adelaide know their water supply is assured. Your claims about feeding Australia is a tad self serving don’t you think, ignoring as it does your obligation to maintain a healthy river system for future generations? Or perhaps you think your interests are the only ones that matter. That is certainly how it looked at the guide burning party.

  32. fredex

    My response to you is being moderated, I dunno why, no links, no swearing. not inordinately long.
    So I’m out of here, have fun folks.

  33. ad32dd241c9040a19f7c8aaf050aef6c

    @TORMENTEDBYTHEDS, It annoys me that the (QLD rice growers?) only think about themselves, It also annoys me that the ill-informed throw down judgments from their macs while sitting in their uncomfortable yet trendy stool, eating tapas in a cafe (high above us all it a gentrified tower of morality just off Brunswick St), thats right eating tapas folks. Can I hazard a guess as to where the contents of said tapas were produced?

    Please don’t be judgmental of an irrigator if you eat food, they care about the river too. Although maybe we should just import all our food. I hear China and Brazil have excellent environmental records, now you can rest easy at night. Don’t worry about me i will just get a job in one of the many booming green industries, like installing solar panels in NSW perhaps?

  34. CML

    @ CLYTIE and FREDEX – You are both absolutely correct. I was born and raised in the Riverland in the middle of last century and my father was an irrigator all of his life (early 70’s). Even then, the SA irrigators had significantly changed the way they used water and were forced to watch the governments of NSW and VIC grossly over allocate water, and use it in a most profligate way.
    It was the SA irrigators who introduced all the methods that this committee is now saying are necessary in the eastern states. BUT THEY PAID FOR IT THEMSELVES!!! It is absolutely outrageous to suggest that the taspayer should pay for this infrastructure in NSW and VIC. If that is the case, then the irrigators of SA should be compensated for all the money that they spent saving water over the last 50 years. I vividly remember the open channel systems being changed to underground pipes starting in the 1950/60’s (I think). And it carried on from there, right up to the present day.
    For those who think this will reduce food production – WRONG, it will just make it more efficient and economical while using less water.

  35. Robert Barwick

    Parable: there once was a village, where one person grew food, one person built and fixed transport, one person built shelter, one handy-man ran a power generator and did the running repairs on the village, and a dozen people sat alone in their rooms sending messages to each other with one hand, while their other hand was down their pants. On this day, the dozen hand-down-pants decided that the person who grew food shouldn’t use water. I think they were Crikey subscribers.

  36. Gavin Moodie

    That’s it: the Murray’s buggered. Eventually when the river is destroyed by algae blooms, salination and is drained dry, the irrigators go broke and are paid out by the Government, then we can try again to manage the system responsibly.

  37. CML

    @ ROBERT BARWICK – You are a very stupid man, and offensive.

  38. beetwo77

    So lets have a look at some information from the natonal water commission for your all the commentators out there telling us city folk to fix the problem with desal, pumping, less water use, our tax dollars on your infrastructure etc…

    – agriculture uses anywhere from 50-65 % of all water consumed in australia
    – households use abou 12 % and this is decreasing
    – the murray darling basin uses around 50% of all water consumed in Australia even though this area has only 6% of Australias surface water reserves

    source http://www.nwc.gov.au/www/html/236-water-use-in-australia.asp.

    Yet we are the problem? And yes us city folk consume much of the output from the MDB that the water consumption is driven by but…

    According to ABARE, export of Australian agricultural products accounts for about 60 % of the value of production. It doesn’t go into details about quantities etc and there has been some significant debate about the accuracy of these figures. But lets assume that this figure is in the ball park and that say 50% + agricultural production in the MDB is exported, you want me to pay for infrastructure out of my taxation dollars while I implement water and energy efficiency measures in my house at my expense so MDB producers can export 30 + % our environmental quality overseas and somehow this is in the ‘national interest’? I’m fairly certain this is only in the interest of irrigators in the MDB who have known for about 80 years that the river was deteriorating and that something drastic would be done some day to sort the mess out.

  39. Tom McLoughlin

    BK I imagine you mean ‘major party politicians’, oh and I guess indy Big Tony running a political model out of tension between the majors.

  40. beetwo77

    Wait I’ve got an idea…Lets introduce a carbon tax…That way us city folk who are causing all of your problems will cut consumption, thereby cutting water usage thereby freeing up environmental flows. Would all the naysayers here support such a move? Zero cost to the irrigators and someone else pays to fix the problem. Sounds like an idea solution to me.

  41. Ian


    Haven’t you got anything useful to contribute? If not please desist.

  42. Liamj

    It is a shame, all those frightened politicians being stampeded into idiocy, and all those farming families and other endangered species that will go to the wall as the big corporate farms suck the basin dry.

    But its par for the course in commercial media, just what the bosses ordered. Isn’t self regulation wonderful (ACMA is a sick joke).

  43. TormentedbytheDs


    Brunswick, tapas, macs, sitting in stool? If you eat food you can’t comment on the basin unless
    you are an irrigator? Sorry, this fish won’t take the bait.

  44. AR

    Just to get this into perspective, the MIA is own main inappropriate farming area, growing really high value stuff like RICE, FFS!, of which we vainly attempt to export/dump >90% at reduced prices into Asia (most of which has some slight experience with the crop) coz we eat so little. A monsoon climate crop (actually rice can be grown as a dry crop, just like wheat & other grains but the yield is 1/4 of flooded paddy) grown in an arid area.
    The majority of the MDB (excluding the obscenity that is Cubby – why, oh WHY didn’t the Feds buy it during the drought?!?, now the bastards are gonna rip another couple of years of cotton out of the flood plain withheld dams before going broke AGAIN) tends to use its waters for broad acre grazing, in the Western Division which has an evaporation rate rivaling the Sahara to produce meat, the vast majority (>70%) of which we export.
    In plain terms, we mine our water, and depleted soils, to export at least 3/4 of our agricultural output.
    I can’t believe the way the meeja repeats the refrain of ‘world’s most efficient farmers’ – like most BigBiz polluters and environmental rapists, it only <I?seems efficient to the ignorant, purblind or innumerate of the Raving Right who ALWAYS privatise profits and socialise losses when their unsustainable methods come up against reality.
    ABARE’s figures, read by anyone with half a brain and no ideological bias, show that Oz soil mining, west of the GDR (and what ever the equivalent is in WA) is a losing game.

  45. Venise Alstergren

    COMPETITIVE AUSTRALIA: You don’t seem to know the first thing about de-sal; so why on earth are you proposing it? The costs are prohibitive. The previous John Brumby government in Victoria panicked in the face of yet another ten year drought. Against all advice he decided to build one-on a lovely isolated beach in Gippsland. A foreign company-naturally-went to work, and the costs did exactly what the voters had already predicted. Now the present government, led by a premier who isn’t exactly the sharpest boy on the block, is desperately trying to unload the whitest elephant in Victoria’s history.

    If you do want a competitive Oz it has better be peopled with people more intelligence than you.

    BTW, you could do a lot worse than read FREDEX. He seems to understand a thing or two.

    TORMENTEDBY: Do you think you can bring yourself to write “you’re” instead of ‘your’ when referring to someone else? ie you are a horse’s…comes out as you’re a horses…….., not ‘your’.

  46. Apollo

    I had lived in Murray Land region in SA before and I know that the people up the Riverland due to severe water restriction at one point because of the drought had innovated new way to water their orange by directly water at the root underground and some also use some kind of calcium spray to protect the plants from the heat and evaporate too much water. This turn out well and the water required is only a small fraction or significantly much less than previous way of irrigation. So I don’t believe in the scaremongering and I know the people of SA have been unfairly treated.

    Just off the topic, I returned to Melbourne last year and have noticed the weather patterns have changed significantly. We now have rainy summer like the tropic and rather warm winter. This makes me think that Melburnians voted the Greens not only because of the progressive demography but because many see the change in the weather pattern as well.

  47. Competitive Australia

    @ Venise Alstergren

    We have one in NSW.

    Who cares about the cost. Power I assume you are talking about, we need the water.

    We will have to have nuclear power one day, may as well start now.

  48. Venise Alstergren

    APOLLO: In this particular case our weather patterns haven’t changed at all. One to two years after a drought goes like this. One year after comes a very cold winter. A year later-or two years after the drought we get a lot of rain. After that we can expect the rain to dry up, followed by another searing drought.

    Just because the globe is heating up, doesn’t necessarily mean no rain. What it does mean is that each successive drought gets worse, and more hot. Last drought saw Victoria, and Melbourne, go to forty-five degrees. Which is the hottest I can remember.

  49. Tom

    @TORMENTEDBYTHEDS, I was just trying to make the point that someone who thinks rice is grown in QLD maybe is not as informed as he/she thinks they are about rural issues. For instance i hold my tongue on issues such as myki as i am not as informed as someone who has to deal with it everyday(A bit like how old desal bob above me should probably settle down a bit). Oh and then i tried to stereotype you like you did to irrigators in your post on Friday, 3 June 2011 at 3:31 pm.

    By the way i had my first Brazilian steak today, although i must say it tasted a little to much like rain forrest for my liking, back to the old Riverina grain fed for me.

    @COMPETITIVE AUSTRALIA, Haven’t you seen enough post apocalyptic movies to know that nuclear power will never work in the long term. Unless of course you team up with young Mel Gibson and protect the settlers from the marauders.

  50. Competitive Australia

    @ Tom

    It has to work, we have NO other solutions to our water, food and power issues that will sustain life beyond our current means.

    The sooner the Greeny wake uo to this the better. Maybe not your lifetime or mine, but our kids.

  51. Apollo

    Thanks VENISE. That means the rain we have now does not end the issue of water shortage in the future.
    It is kind of funny to see Victorians complain about rainy weather when they really need it though. 45 degrees, crikey, I won’t be able to stand it if gets more severe than that in the future.

  52. Frank Campbell

    “What of course it didn’t figure on was irrigators, politicians and the media trying to whip up a frenzy about the document in an attempt — now plainly successful — to derail the only serious effort in Australian history to sustainably manage the Murray-Darling Basin.”


    You didn’t have to be Lostradamus Keane to predict that outcome…

    Why? Because the govt. is not only a weak minority govt., it has proved incompetent at both formulating and managing policy.

    Why is it in this mess? Mainly because of its devotion to climate millenarianism, now funnelled into a desperate struggle to impose a “carbon” tax.

    In effect, rectifying Australia’s most important single environmental disaster – the Murray/Darling basin- has been subverted by a middle-class cult.

  53. Venise Alstergren

    COMPETITIVE OZ: We would have enough water if we looked after it. Grew crops that were suitable for our climate, and covered over a lot of the water channels and pipelines, and stopped flinging it around in those gigantic sprays. Also ignore the fools who say the drop of water that hits the soil comes back in a river/stream, etc. Whoever thought of it had no concept of the evaporative quality of water.

    BTW, you rush in to comment without taking in the content of whatever the Bernard Keanes of Crikey are saying. I don’t know what sort of medication your local leech has prescribed for you, but it sure has some uppers in it.

  54. Competitive Australia

    @ Venise.

    I have not been to a Doctor for a long time and not been on pills (except for the odd penicillian) since I was a kid.

    Dont take too kindly to your personal attacks.

  55. Venise Alstergren

    COMPETITIVE OZ: I’m delighted to hear it. Then, why do you rush in to comment before knowing something about the subject? There’s no way I would criticise someone whose opinion had been arrived at with thought, even if it was utterly opposed to my own. This is what the comments section is all about.

    Here’s one of your comments. “”we need irrigation to produce food and to increase food production, as it will be our competitive advantage in the future, so we need to think OUTSIDE the box to get massive quantities.””

    What does this statement actually mean? Do you have anything to prove that irrigation is vital to grow crops? I’ve been to a lot of places which do not have much irrigation, yet they grow crops. Other commentators here state that more irrigation can produce less crops. “”OUTSIDE the box”” what does this mean? WTF does it mean? It’s just some slick grab-phrase thought up by an advertising company. Nothing in life is ever achieved by slick grab-shots. Nor should it be.

  56. Competitive Australia

    @ Venise,

    Here’s one of your comments. “”we need irrigation to produce food and to increase food production, as it will be our competitive advantage in the future, so we need to think OUTSIDE the box to get massive quantities.”” What does this statement actually mean?


    Do you have anything to prove that irrigation is vital to grow crops?


    I’ve been to a lot of places which do not have much irrigation, yet they grow crops.


    Other commentators here state that more irrigation can produce less crops.


    “”OUTSIDE the box”” what does this mean? WTF does it mean?



  57. Venise Alstergren

    COMPETITIVE: You don’t have to shout. I agree on the nuclear front, at least until something better comes up. Which I don’t think it will-because we’ve left it too late.

  58. Competitive Australia

    @ Venise

    sorry was not shouting, just try to separate your comments from my answers.

    We need years to build the infrastructure, pipe, dams inland. We have an opportunity to turn some / a lot of arid Australia into a massive food production area that are inhabitable.

    This is what we need.

    – we also need to re start coastal shipping, to take pressure off roads
    – we dont need a 50 billion abloody NBN.

  59. Apollo

    @ VENISE

    “until something better comes up”

    Check out at beyondzeroemissions.org/zero-carbon-australia-2020

    Apparently the estimation of future renewable energy cost is way out of date. For example: current installation cost for wind energy is already lower than the estimates by Australian Energy Market Operator for the year 2030.

  60. Venise Alstergren

    APPLLO: I’d be delighted to read the link with which you have provided me. I’m far from happy for having had to come down on the side of nuclear, but am even more so about the in-born attitude of so many Australians that nothing is ever any good if it hasn’t already got the OK from Uncle Sam.

    COMPETITIVE: Areas that are uninhabitable are so for a reason. Ergo, nothing can grow there. The farming infrastructure you talk about will be a complete re-run of trying to farm areas like the Mallee. And sticking Soldier Settlers with absolutely no knowledge to farm them. Why sink billions into land which is unproductive when, with a lot less money, it must be possible to turn equally vast tracts of QLD and Northern Territory’s sub-tropical areas into farmland. After all, these are the places which are always being flooded. The same areas that state governments do nothing but gripe about.

    I’m going to bed!

  61. Competitive Australia

    @ Venise

    I dont mind where we find the new farmland, we just need to find it, lots of it and quickly.

  62. Competitive Australia

    Interesting to see the results of NinMSN poll this morning. Huge voter turnout.

    Should an election be called before a carbon tax is introduced

    Yes 110780 80%

    No 26119 20%

    and similar results to Newspoll, with a sample size 273 times higher

  63. Venise Alstergren

    COMPETITIVE: The MSM have been hammering this point for weeks. At the height
    of their hyperbole a poll is taken. The result is scarcely surprising.

  64. Competitive Australia

    I think Windsor will announce soon that he wont support Carbon Tax, he is waiting for the Government to announce the compo to low income earners, so he has a reason to change direction.

  65. Venise Alstergren

    CC: But what will his voters think about him changing. It will, I agree, be interesting to see.

  66. Competitive Australia

    @ Venise

    He will save his bacon in New England and differentiate Oakeshott from himself. He is a wily old bugger.

  67. Venise Alstergren

    @CC: Just like Joh Bjelke-Petersen? God help QLD, because no oe else will!

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