I stand corrected

On Friday I was in Canberra giving evidence to the Senate Inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin. I had flown up with a very simple message – conduct a full comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority plan. While there have been numerous impact studies and research and what-not undertaken already, and more being planned to be undertaken, the fact remains that a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis has not been undertaken.

Anyway, I was asked by the ALP Senator on the panel why the buy-back market hadn’t performed as well as might have been expected. Now we need to bear in mind that this is a new market – with any new market there are going to be teething problems. At the some time people are unsure as to what their property rights are and how those rights will evolve over time. There have also been lots of stories about speculators and market manipulation and so on. Anyway, the ALP senator fixed on the property rights issue, asking why that may be an issue given that the parliament had passed laws and that there were constitutional conventions and protections and so on to secure property rights.

The answer to this question is that rules change. That we can’t trust politicians. I made that point quoting, from memory, H.L Mencken that no man’s property is safe while the Congress, or in our case, the parliament is in session. It turns out, I was completely wrong. It was Mark Twain who said:

No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.

Now to be clear, this is not a criticism of our current crop of politicians – this is a cost of democracy that must be traded off against the (far more valuable) benefits of democracy.

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18 Responses to I stand corrected

  1. Lem

    I hate it when I get the original author of the quotes I use wrong, because I have a nit picking and very erudite spouse who has tripped me up the one time I did it.

    Nevertheless, as my spouse would tell you, my basic premise is aways right (like yours) 😉

  2. Gertrude

    Apology accepted. 😆

  3. Bruce of Newcastle

    Now to be clear, this is not a criticism of our current crop of politicians

    Well it should be. The pollies are circling and sniffing superannuation, salivatingly. The vibe is so obvious that anyone with a brain will see it and get their super away from them as fast as they possibly can. No one in their right mind will contribute more than they positively have to, and I betcha the accountants are doing good business in developing ways to avoid compulsory super contributions. The chance that you will get to actually collect that money when you turn 60 62 65 70 75 is rapidly diminishing.

    As for the Murray basin buyback, any farmer who sells water rights is like someone selling their left leg. You can’t farm without water in the same way you can’t farm without a left leg.

    Ok yep these days you probably can farm without a left leg. But you still can’t farm without water.

  4. Rob MW

    Anyway, the ALP senator fixed on the property rights issue, asking why that may be an issue given that the parliament had passed laws and that there were constitutional conventions and protections and so on to secure property rights.

    There’s only one (1) – that’s singular – constitutional protection and that’s s51 (xxxi) and it does not apply to two (2) tiers of Government, the States or Local Government. See Durham Holdings and as for ‘passed laws’. FMD……laws can be amended, either within themselves or amended consistently or inconsistently by other laws or repealed or made ineffectual by UN conventions or treaties – (ie) the National Environment Protection Council Act (commonly known as Agenda 21- see the schedule) or the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act.

    Now to be clear, this is not a criticism of our current crop of politicians – this is a cost of democracy that must be traded off against the (far more valuable) benefits of democracy.

    I don’t whether to laugh or cry at that bit of bullshit. Natural justice dictates that if the fucking communal majority what my life, property or liberty then, one way or the other, they are going to have to pay for it. Simple really, and with a definitive subtle touch.

  5. JohnA

    Ok yep these days you probably can farm without a left leg. But you still can’t farm without water.

    Bruce, there is probably some assistance program, somewhere, for disabled (less-abled) farmers.

    (Dear politicians, this is NOT a suggestion to add to NDIS).

  6. John Constantine

    Cross catchment sale of water.

    The time may well be arriving that it will be legal to sell water that is only worth a dollar in catchment a to someone in catchment b who will happily pay two dollars.for.it.

    Their filthpenny Wong ran the plan like her own personal opportunity to conduct a highland clearance of obsolete Australians from the murray darling basin.

    The left just love that sort of crap.

  7. John Constantine

    It would be just so expensive to do something like take water.that was going to run into the ocean down one river, put it through a hydro electric plant and put it into the ocean down the Murray.

    It isn’t like they could just turn the snowy mountains scheme tap back on or something.

  8. Crossie

    Anyway, I was asked by the ALP Senator on the panel why the buy-back market hadn’t performed as well as might have been expected.

    This lack of self awareness on the part of our politicians is scandalous. Where’s the wisdom we pay for and they touted they had so we would vote for them? I expect empathy doesn’t get a look in either.

  9. Rob MW

    Rob MW – are you familiar with deeming laws – what a travesty they are.

    Thanks Dot.

    I don’t know why we employ judges or bother having a legal system at all. Parliamentary Supremacy is a far cry from a Parliamentary Democracy. I think that it was said in a movie or something, set during the American War of Independence, but it went something like: What is the difference between one tyrant 3,000 miles away and 3,000 tyrants one mile away ?

  10. robk

    There’s only one (1) – that’s singular – constitutional protection and that’s s51 (xxxi) and it does not apply to two (2) tiers of Government, the States or Local Government.
    I think you summed it up with that Rob MW. As I understand it (and I don’t claim any expertise other than personal experience), the various States’ constitutions are not the same but are superior to the federal one. In the case of the W.A. constitution they are able to legislate a taking of property without compensation where as the Fed couldn’t.

  11. Tel

    In the case of the W.A. constitution they are able to legislate a taking of property without compensation where as the Fed couldn’t.

    That’s what happened to Peter Spencer under NSW law, Joanne Nova has the documentation:

    http://joannenova.com.au/tag/peter-spencer/

    Peter’s argument was that the Commonwealth paid off the state to do the dirty work, thus using a business deal to bypass their Constitutional limitations. Almost certainly Peter was correct about how that worked, but I’m pretty sure he was never able to prove this was illegal.

  12. robk

    Peter Spencer is by no means alone. He is to be commended in his efforts to defend himself. He has my support. Efforts of that type are like wading through non Newtonian fluid, the harder you push the more resistance you face to the point where it’s hard to see it wrapped up in one lifetime.

  13. Alex Davidson

    I don’t get it. Why are we talking about a ‘buy-back market’ as if it was something real, not just a fake market made up to give a veneer of respectability to yet another attack on property rights? And how on earth can the complete disregard for property rights occurring in Australia under democracy-without-limits be a fair price to pay for the benefits of the nanny-state and big government? Is the collective now more important than the individual?

    The concept of ownership evolved as a peaceful means of allocating scarce resources. The only legitimate role for government is to protect the central right of ownership, which is that the owner has the sole and exclusive right to control the owned resource. Anything else necessarily involves the application of force, which defeats the central peaceful purpose.

    Democracy in Australia is so far away from protecting citizen’s property rights that we may as well call it communism. Only the government truly owns anything, as in possessing the exclusive right of control. The rest of us have been reduced to little more than unpaid caretakers, forced to follow the most minutely-detailed rules about what we may ostensibly own, and what we can do with it.

    It has gone well beyond an acceptable cost of democracy.

  14. robk

    Tel,
    I think you are right that he’s not been able to show illegality. I’m uncertain about his current disposition but I understand his plight continues. The comment I would make in reference to the thread…..what property rights?

  15. Fidel

    IIRC, when Madowla Park was sold by Elliot’s receivers for 7 million odd in 2002, I wonder did the buyers, not sure who, imagine it may fetch 25m six years later. Federal and State Govt were the buyers, for the environment.
    Given that it went from 4m in 1987 to 7m in 2002.
    Strange also that it has since been sold on for around 10m.
    I’m not sure what water went with the last sale but the first two would have had same water rights.
    I do wonder who the buyers were in 2002.

  16. robk

    The government in W.A. is regularly perceived to be buying up land blighted by green tape for a pittance, much of it in the name of a rather common black cockatoo. Heaven alone knows how they intend to manage it. In many respects it’s the lucky ones that are offered the pittance. The rest of us have a sterilized amenity to endure for the public good.

  17. Vicki

    Quite a few years ago now I had the opportunity at a Sydney Institute event to put to the then Treasurer, Wayne Swann, why no cost-benefit analysis had been done for either the NBN or the Murray-Darling water buyback proposal.

    As his his habit, Gerard Henderson repeated the question, to which Swannie replied, “Oh, I heard the question alright”.

    However, despite his apparent concern, he went on to blithely assure me that the appropriate analysis had, in fact, been done for the NBN scheme. No mention was made of the Murray-Darling – but no doubt he would have prevaricated in the same way had he been reminded of his omission.

    I always thought that Howard’s capitulation on this particular obsession of the Greenies was one of his few major political blunders. The subsequent Labor government thought they had a virtual carte blanche to do as they pleased.

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