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Water or Votes: Victoria vs Howard & the Murray-Darling Basin

The more I observed the conflicts between Howard and Bracks over water, the more I thought they were about votes and not water.

I honestly cannot see why anyone who cared about safeguarding water for Australia would give more water to irrigators and take it from dryland farmers. This is what happened in the Victorian Government's push for piping in the Wimmera Mallee, replacing seasonal gravity-fed channels one hundred years old with expensive, cumbersome, motor-pumped pvc closed pipes, forcing farmers to bulldoze their dams and to lay expensive infrastructure for the privilege of receiving very expensive water which has been arguably taken from them to buy votes from irrigators who were also encouraged to farm even more intensively - feedlot pig farms, dairy farms and vinyards.

Let's face it; the irrigated parts of the MDB are the most densely populated areas of inland rural Australia and water for irrigators is a handle on a substantial voting population. In contrast the dryland farmers, albeit far more sustainable even though broad acre, are too thin on the ground to matter to Bracks or Howard.

So, is this about water? Yes, but only about branding water with a party name and the face of particular politicians.

I thought that Howard was masterfully crafty in his sudden withdrawal from the Snowy Hydro privatisation plan, leaving Bracks, so to speak, high, dry and irrigation vote-less. It was eerily like watching the road-runner outrace the coyote, yet again - with Bracks the coyote and Howard the road-runner.

I guess that is part of the reason that Bracks would be furious this time. Apparently the VFF suddenly decided to go National. The farmers followed. And then ...did Bracks resign or was he persuaded to resign? And what about Thwaites? I'm only sorry that I missed the detail. I have looked in vain for articles which would analyse what really happened.

I certainly cannot credit Bracks or Thwaites with any sincere desire to actually guarantee hydration to Victoria. I have watched them side with big money (Pratt's piping; desalination; overpopulation, taking water from the Golburn to sprinking on the new suburbs their mates the property developers are building in every big country town) for too long.

It is truly sickening to listen to both Federal and State politicians carrying on about precious water for future generations etc with their hands over the places where their hearts would be if they had hearts, when anyone can see that they are leading a stampede of salivating nabobs who are dying for full commodification to take place so that they can buy up the water and wait for the inflation and scarcity which is already arising with climate change, continuing population growth, and more intensification of agriculture.

With a merchant banker in charge of water - Turnbull - we just know they are going to get what they want and the rest of us are all in really big trouble. Trading water separate from land is a terrible idea, but I am horribly sure that Turnbull will come up with much worse. He only seems to deal in really bad ideas - like schemes to assist banks to get more land from the same amount of mortgages.

I wish we could all wake up and find that this was all a bad dream and that we 21st century Australians really are all too evolved to allow Australia to go the same way as treeless waterless Greece, Rome, Egypt, China ...



Sheila Newman, population sociologist
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Yes, we need a national overview and coordinating body for Australia's water. But we also need to keep our populations within local catchments. And we shouldn't be irrigating at all; we should only be doing dryland or permaculture.

There you go - all impossible in an overpopulated economic rationalist country.

On current trends we are doomed.

A severe crisis might save us from total destruction.

Maybe we should start looking in detail at the terms of reference that such a water coordinating body would have and start campaigning for same. Keep Public Water in Public Hands!! :-) Where did I get that from?