Do what’s right

By Country News

Do what’s right

South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill this week said he was ‘‘fighting for what’s right’’, and I agree with his sentiments.

It is time we all started not only ‘‘fighting for what’s right’’, but also ‘‘doing what’s right’’.

Mr Weatherill was commenting directly on the South Australian Royal Commission into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, which needs to be more far-reaching than protecting South Australia’s interests, which the premier proposes.

He seems to have forgotten that this was a plan developed by four states and the Federal Government to protect the entire Murray-Darling Basin, not specifically South Australia’s water supply.

Mr Weatherill is also a bit loose with the facts when he says 3200Gl has been ‘‘secured to deliver a healthy Murray-Darling Basin’’.

In fact, 2750Gl was secured, and his government supported the legislation that this would only be recovered if there were no adverse socio-economic impacts across the basin.

Now that we have unequivocal proof there will be socio-economic damage if there are attempts to recover the additional 450Gl, Mr Weatherill is trying to use his government’s political clout to have this vital part of the legislation ignored. Is that ‘‘fighting for what’s right’’?

It is past time that South Australia accepted this is a four-state basin plan, not a South Australian plan.

As part of its Royal Commission, it needs to investigate recommendations of the 2016 report from a Senate inquiry into the basin plan, in particular those relating to South Australia, as follows:

■Evaluate the effect of purchasing irrigation water while declining to use its desalination plant;

■Undertake a cost-benefit analysis of the South Australian barrages including removing them all, removing some or modifications, and if the analysis indicates one or more lead to positive social, economic and environmental outcomes then the basin plan be amended accordingly;

■Calculate the economic value of freshwater evaporated from the Lower Lakes;

■Undertake a detailed study to inform whether a reassessment of the Coorong’s Ramsar listing from a freshwater system to an estuarine system is more appropriate; and

■Investigate construction of an additional lock above Lake Alexandrina, such as near Wellington, South Australia.

Remember, these were recommendations from a detailed Senate inquiry that investigated ways to implement a basin plan that could deliver social, economic and environmental benefits across the entire basin.

They should be back on the table at the next meeting of the basin’s Ministerial Council, with the federal and other state governments demanding immediate action.

One also has to question why the supposedly independent Murray-Darling Basin Authority is not strongly articulating the view that these recommendations should be actioned as a matter of urgency.

That, I believe, would be ‘‘fighting for what’s right’’. As a consequence, I trust all these issues will be part of the South Australian Government’s Basin Plan Royal Commission and ongoing basin plan discussions.

— Shelley Scoullar, Deniliquin

More than faith needed

How comforting that Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce ‘‘has faith’’ that those central to striking the TTP deal know what they are doing, and would not set us up with a dog of a deal.

Saints preserve us from fools!

Australian farmers everywhere can tell you horror stories about FTAs.

Have Joyce, who is yet to see the full details of the deal, and Ciobo, who won’t release any details, never been to a cattle sale?

You know, that place where you go to inspect, assess and see what you are laying out your hard earned for.

How about showing us the details of this deal, because ‘‘faith’’ just doesn’t cut it?

— Peter Neilson,


Dig deeper

The individuals who signed a so-called Murray-Darling Declaration calling for changes to the basin plan make some good points which deserve further consideration.

An environmentally-healthy, working basin is in the interests of all Australians and is certainly the priority for virtually all its residents. I was surprised the group did not place more emphasis on achieving this aspiration for the benefit of their fellow mankind.

That being as it is, I offer my support and comment on some of the issues that have been raised:

■Stop further expenditure on irrigation infrastructure. I’m not sure we really want to stop projects that save water, however if this was to take place, the money could be channelled into end of system infrastructure, which for some inexplicable reason has been ignored. As I am sure those in the group would appreciate, we are trying to turn a traditionally estuarine system into a freshwater system which, to my mind, seems contradictory from a scientific perspective. I’m not sure why the group is not insisting that the barrages be modernised or upgraded and perhaps the suggested Wellington Lock installed, thus returning the end of system to its natural state.

■Audit all water recovery. This is essential. Latest scientific reports, including CSIRO, question many aspects of water recovery so far under the basin plan, including the modelling on which recovery targets were based. Much of the modelling was undertaken during the millennium drought which, as the studies are now showing, was not a true indication of the basin’s health or history. Remember the saying about lies, damned lies and statistics? The same could be said for basin plan modelling — you can make the science tell to you what you want, it’s just a matter of selecting the right timeframe. In this instance the millennium drought appears to be used to suit a particular agenda, so let’s stop all water recovery and undertake some serious scientific study that accurately reflects long-term trends.

■Establish an independent expert advisory body. The group suggests this should be a scientific body. I would make it broader and truly representative of our nation’s interests in achieving a healthy, working basin that supports regional communities, puts food on the tables of our city cousins and feeds billions of people throughout the world. Unfortunately, it would be extremely difficult making this a truly independent body because, as we have seen, personal agendas tend to dominate, such as the need to secure government funding streams and politics. But it’s worth a try.

I look forward to the group endorsing my actions, which would benefit the basin, my fellow Australians and billions of starving people throughout the world who I believe our nation should support.

— Daryl McDonald, Murrabit