splendour
Splendour In The Grass 2019 (Image: AAP/Regi Varghese)

No go with the flow

Hey, remember when we were having that climate crisis which has been long since superseded by all the other crises 2020 has thrown our way?

Well, while it’s not getting the sort of headlines it did back before the planet was engulfed in a viral pandemic, it’s still going strong: so much so that the Mary River in Queensland is currently experiencing zero flow. And while that might sound like what you have when your chakras fail to align at a Nimbin yoga retreat, it’s actually even more problematic.

It’s a very bad thing for communities downriver, like Amamoor where the local council are preparing to start carting water into the township. It’s a very bad thing for farmers along the river who were planning on irrigating the crops which provide their livelihood. And it also leads to the water’s surface being covered in the dead, decaying bodies of fish who’ve choked to death in the deoxygenated waters.

Brad Wedlock of the Mary River Catchment Coordinating Committee told InQueensland, “that’s unprecedented, to have zero flows in the Mary River in October. Locals [and] old-timers, they don’t recall a time when in October we’ve had this level of low flow”.

It’s hoped that this situation might be short-term thanks to the greater rainfall associated with La Nina, but if the drying of the Mary has become less an infrequent disaster and more an annual feature, maybe some sort of action might be in order. After all, we had all those problems with the Murray-Darling last year and now they’re all sorted ou- ah, sorry, never mind.

The day the music died

Speaking of that whole pandemic thing, if you’ve been optimistically looking at the gradual lifting of restrictions and hoping that the traditional ecosystem of summer music festivals might start to repopulate, you might want to take off your party trousers and instead pull on that itchy jumper of long-term disappointment.

Yes, there’s a new reason to doubt that good things will return, and it’s thanks to a little thing called “insurance”.

In essence, no one will offer disease outbreak-adjacent cancellation insurance for events anymore, and no event promoter can afford to spend months and millions of dollars booking acts, hiring staging and PAs, and sorting out fencing and permits and toilets and fire plans and food vendors and security and the billion other things that festivals require, only to then lose all of that money if public health and safety requires another lockdown.

As it happens, the Byron Bay Bluesfest did buy pandemic insurance last year amid warnings that there might be a gastro issue in the region — not the greatest vote of confidence for Byron Bay’s dining establishments — which meant that they were semi-covered when they had to cancel this year’s event.

However, now insurers have removed that already-expensive option which puts a large question mark on events like Bluesfest, even though they have optimistically announced dates for 2021.

There’s definitely ways of working around this, though, according to the ABC — like a government-backed fund for promoters in the case of cancellation which would act in a similar way to the fund the Howard government set up after 9/11 to cover commercial property in the event of a terrorist attack.

Mind you, that carries a lot of risk. After all, that might look a bit like the Morrison government was supporting the arts…

That sinking feeling

Any casual look at the budget made clear, the federal government’s playful approach to funding doesn’t apply to Defence.

Take our next gen submarines — memorably described by the late former DLP senator John Madigan as our “spaceships of the ocean!” — which are set to replace our current fleet of sink-boats at a budgeted cost of $50 billion. Or, as Brian Toohey writes at michaelwest.com, $90 billion if you include the current amount of cost blowouts so far.

Fortunately they’re just around the corner, by which we mean 2050. And sure, that means there’ll be a longish stretch between when we retire the Collins-class subs and when we drive our first Attack-class sub out of the underwater showroom, but provided that we focus our military on land-based military engagements for a while that shouldn’t be an issue.

And at least we have our sovereignty, since these sleek new sea-machines give Australia complete operational autonomy in defence of our waters. As long as we support the US in the South China Sea, of course, and also get them to update their software on the regular.

Yes, the computer systems of the subs remain a black box to which Australia has agreed to contract Lockheed Martin exclusive access, requiring the odd regular trip back to the US to download the equivalent of the new Flash player or Windows 98 upgrade.

Fortunately submarines are like fine wine in that they become better with age, and spending decades waiting to get museum-piece technology just makes them all the more collectable.

And in any case, they’re irreplaceable strategic assets since there won’t be any cheaper and far more versatile military solution available any time this century like, just for example, autonomous underwater drones which are definitely oh hold on wait…

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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