The Murray-Darling Basin:

Bill Williams writes: Re. “Murray Murmurings: there’s no jobs on a dead river” (December 23, item 11). The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Simon O’Connor writes:

“A decade of drought has shown what happens when nature forces more severe water cuts than those proposed under the draft basin plan — jobs grew in many regions, value of production stayed high and farmers innovated through more water efficient production methods.”

By Simon’s logic the agricultural sector in the Murray-Darling Basin will be looking forward to the next drought.

Comments such as this one from O’Connor undermine the credibility of the ACF. I wonder if he has any idea at all about the hardship caused by the drought on irrigation communities? He should have a look at the price and volume of real estate for sale in towns such as Berrigan and Finley. What about the size of the debts that irrigators accumulated while paying for a water right that delivered little or even no water, Simon? What about the numbers of farmers who received social security payments under exceptional circumstances? What about the number of suicides in Murray-Darling Basin communities during the drought? I wonder if Simon O’Connor even read Bernie Roebuck’s speech printed in Murray Murmurings?

I imagine he would have paid no attention at all to Stephanie Schulte’s excellent critique of the neo-classical economic assumptions underpinning the MDBA’s predictions about minimal job losses resulting from the MDBA plan?

The Australian Conservation Foundation has done some of its best work in the Murray-Darling Basin. The Fivebough and Tuckerbil Swamp wetlands restorations are cases in point. However, the ACF’s  fixation with putting water down dramatically disturbed rivers such as the Murray River and the Edward River at the expense of other less well known but more important rivers such as the Wakool river, reveal that the ACF, too, has been caught up by the South Australian water lobby.

Would it be too much to hope that the Australian Conservation Foundation might adopt a more sophisticated theory about “saving the Murray” than its current “just add water” idea? The Murray River (and the Edward) need all the logs that were removed for paddle steamers replaced, so that any high-flow river causes localised flooding to adjacent forests and wetlands. These rivers need all their adjacent wetlands restored, for these adjacent wetlands are  the rivers’ “kidneys” ( as the Yorta Yorta people describe Barmah Forest and Moira Lakes in their part of the river). Such restoration means undoing all the drainage works put in place to “save water” in almost all of the pre-European wetlands adjacent to the major rivers. [Even today the MDBA wants to destroy the Menindee Lakes as Lake Mokoan was destroyed during the drought]. But this wouldn’t suit the South Australians would it?

By all means, the ACF should rightfully lobby for more water for the environment, but please don’t write this drivel about Murray-Darling Basin communities being better off as a result of drought. And please don’t assume that delivering water to South Australia is the most important environmental objective for water that is returned to the environment.


Niall Clugston writes: Re. “In Africa, do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” (December 23, item 4).  It’s a bit sad that Rafiq Copeland’s plea for aid to Africa is drowned out by an attack on a song that Bob Geldof wrote 30 years ago.

What matters most?  A bad song or the plight of millions in the Horn of Misery?

Stupid question. The bad song, of course.