[image from Inkcinct]
There is a bittuva stoush between Mike Rann* and the Federal Gummint at the moment regarding control of the Murray Darling Basin, so am reprinting a “Letter to the Editor” from Saturday's “Weekend Australian”. (hope that Jim Staples doesn't mind).
Mike Rann should look to the rice farmers of Indonesia for a model for controlling the disbursement of water flowing to South Australia down the Darling and the Murray. To irrigate the paddy fields along the local flow, the rice farmers (for whom water is life) have an elected committee, the chairman of which is always the last farmer at the end of the channel. [emphasis added]
He can be relied upon to ensure that his family gets the water, and so everyone else upstream does, too.
You'd think, just looking at the map, that South Australia, being at the end of that vast catchment area, would end up with tons of the stuff. Not so. It's all siphoned off before it gets here. We end up with a trickle of effluent.
While the issue of control of the Murray/Darling Basin is probably far more complex than I really understand, have to admit that am very firmly behind Mike Rann who has said (more or less) that handing control from one group of politicians to another group of politicians is stupid, and is digging his heels in for some sort of “Independent” management authority.
While am not advocating that “control”of the Murray/Darling basin should rest with South Australia as indicated by principle in the letter – do think that handing total control to the Federal Government would be a disaster for South Australia; which just happens to be situated at the end of the sewer.
NSW and Victoria – and to some extent Queensland through the Nationals – have far more “lobby power” in the hallowed halls of pork barrel parliament, and very little would change from the current situation where vast amounts of water are siphoned off for up-stream corporations to “flood irrigate” and grow cotton and rice, products that would probably be far cheaper – in the long run - to import.
Unless we can find a way to set up a system that would act in the best – and long term - interests of ALL the irrigators and water users along the system, South Australia will CONTINUE to draw from the “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” effluent and garbage from upstream.
While Federal politicians are giving loud and insistent “lip service” to “best interests” at the moment, there is no guarantee that this would continue if control was ceded, nor be binding on successive Parliaments. Howard has “promised” to throw $10 billion over ten years at the problem (it's an election year) , but am under the impression that funds previously “promised” have yet to eventuate.
Howard is developing about as much credibility as his good friend G. W. Bush.
[*Premier of South Australia (loosely equivalent to an American State “Governor”). Each State developed from independent colonies, each with their individual and separate Parliaments and constitutions. Australia “Federated” in 1901, and over the past ten years the Howard government has been systematically destroying the State's autonomy - but am not going to delve into the plusses and minuses of “Nationalisation” as distinct from “Federalisation”.]