A recent Can the Plan rally that saw about 5000 angry and concerned members of rural Australia descend on Canberra calling for an end to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan has been described as noisy and self-serving in a recent Guardian article headlined `Wake up, Australia: deceit and post-truth politics will not save you from the flames’.
Co-authored by Quentin Grafton, Matthew Colloff, Virginia Marshall and John Williams Crawford, the article takes aim at protesters, claiming they want additional water at the expense of other people’s livelihoods while volunteer firefighters put their lives on the line.
Womboota farmer Jacqui McArthur, the woman who founded global phenomenon Earth Hour, was so incensed by the article she had to respond.
“Contrast the self-serving Can the Plan protesters who want more water at the expense of other people’s livelihoods with the volunteer firefighters putting their lives on the line.”
Dear learned public policy professors:
Up to 70 per cent of these ‘selfish’ people would be past or present serving members of the Rural Fire Service with decades of service on their record.
If they are not the firefighters, who leave their farms and families in the middle of the night and for days on end, they are the wives or children who worry about them and how to defend their own homes by themselves on 42-degree days with 120 km winds, and then rally to do jobs undone when farmers are taken away from their businesses.
Many of their neighbours are up there now, fighting NSW east coast and Queensland fires.
My husband, a brigade captain, has had seven call-outs since September, one in the state forest where their workers were pulled out at 5 pm, while these ‘selfish farmer’ volunteers had to stay on Crown land for a further six gruelling hours.
How's that for public policy?
And you assert:
“Yet it is the protesters who got what they asked for while our firefighters struggle to stop Australia burning with insufficient equipment and a lack of water.”
We loathe and distrust our representative leaders. We do not expect "we got what we asked for''. We are waiting for March to see if they will be as treasonous and duplicitous as they have been to date.
We have a democratic right to protest.
Far from demanding "more water at the expense of livelihoods'’, we are fighting for our lives and our children's futures.
So who are we?
We are the people who feed you. We are the family farmers who over six years grew $3.2 billion dollars worth of staple food mostly for Australians — wheat for bread and pasta, canola for oil, milk, yoghurt, butter, cheese, rice, barley for beer, lamb, beef, pork, wine and fruit.
And then two years ago the government turned the tap off completely, decreed us zero per cent allocation, while we watched the Murray turn into a corporate drain for 100 per cent allocation to South Australia, 80 per cent to 60 per cent for Victoria.
And cried with our friends and families up north as they witnessed the Darling River abused and stolen from.
It is war the state and federal governments, foreign and domestic agribusiness corporates, water brokers and cashed-up armchair speculators with no loyalty to place, are waging on us.
Are you still reading, do you understand?
In the fog of war, tens of thousands of hectares of corporate export cotton and nuts were planted; their water needs are now four times what they said they would be.
We could have grown fodder for the poor souls up north, we could have fed so many people.
We could have stopped the suicides, the bankruptcies, the decimation of the dairy industry and the deep anxiety of everyone involved.
Instead, our leaders give corporates hundreds of millions of dollars to build storages that could cut off the Murrumbidgee from the Murray in dry times.
Every time you dehumanise us, call us selfish, refuse to consider our stewardship of the environment and our integral part in mitigating climate change, the bastards win.
According to the Drawdown report (the 100 most substantive solutions to global warming), 50 per cent of those solutions are in reorienting food systems and land management.
That's us; we can do that with support.
Take the water, give it to vested interests, and we're gone. Forever.