Wrecking the Murray Darling’s agriculture

Not for the first time Four Corners this week aired an alarmist program on the Murray and irrigation, full of dark forebodings of graft and corruption, overlaid on the familiar green left theme that Murray Darling basin, the source of over 40 per cent of the nation’s agricultural produce, was witness to a robbery of our environmental heritage.

Chris Corrigan defended his business Websters against the claim that he had somehow inveigled $40 million from the regulatory custodians. The President of the NFF had an article supportive of the plan that has taken 20 per cent of the water from the Basin’s farmers and claiming that the ABC got it wrong because it excluded the returned water not used by irrigated crops in their growth process.

Irrigation farmer, Ron Pike had a piece in Quadrant that accurately stated how the Murray Darling plan had evolved and was destroying the region’s prosperity, though most of us would disagree with one of his solutions that involves restricting the trading of water.

I had this article ($) in the Spectator pointing out

Dams transformed the highly irregular flows of the system (the annual variation being between 7,000 and 118,000 gigalitres) into a placid river. This not only allowed some 12,000 gigalitres of water out of the average 34,000 gigalitres to be allocated to irrigation use, but also gave us a river far more suitable for recreation as well as for fish and birdlife.  The Murray Darling became a working river like the Nile, the Mississippi, the Indus, and the Po.

Climatic factors mean the irrigated area of Australia is low by world standards, less than one per cent compared to 20 per cent in many well-watered countries.

Having created a valuable agricultural resource, Australia’s predilection for (normally destructive) policy meddling has, since the 1990s, worked on tearing it down.

In 2007, Environment Minister, Tony Burke, a former Wilderness Society member, created a 400 strong quango, the Murray Darling Basin Authority, tasked with buying or otherwise finding 2,700 gigalitres to be poured down the river as environmental flows. The $13 billion program was carefully constructed to comprise funds to save water by better channels and so on, as well as direct purchases from farmers.

This week’s Four Corners program “Cash Splash” attacked the symptoms of the debacle rather than its cause.  Its target became the “speculators” who had bought water rights (usually without the land to which they were previously attached) and were seeking to profit by selling them.  It also criticised as wasteful the part of the scheme that involves payments for water saving through improved infrastructure.

Speculators’ activities enable resources to be switched from those who value them less highly to those who are willing to pay most for them.  Speculators therefore have a beneficial effect. The fact that the water licences are detachable from the land they originally served is a vehicle for ensuring this (and informal trading among licence holders has been common for decades).

The real tragedy is that the scheme exists in the first place.  There is no evidence that the former allocation of some 11,000 gigalitres of water to irrigation was excessive.  The claims that it was so were rhetorical and have mainly been refuted (for example, no species have become extinct, the rainfall has not been reduced, salinity – a natural rather than human caused problem – was easily resolved.

Meanwhile the Plan has taken 20 per cent of the water from irrigators, derating the nation’s most valuable agricultural region, reducing its annual output by some $3 billion. For the region this has meant less work for suppliers, contractors and those servicing the now diminished agricultural industry.  For Australia as a whole it is yet another self-harming policy that makes us considerably less wealthy.

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18 Responses to Wrecking the Murray Darling’s agriculture

  1. Colonel Crispin Berka

    No discussion of the MDBA is complete without mentioning Topher Field’s informative and moving short documentary on the impact it causes farmers.

  2. Percy Popinjay

    There is no field of human economic, scientific or social endeavour that cannot be made worse or completely stuffed up by the meddling of collectivist cretins.

    This is yet another example.

  3. Dr Fred Lenin

    All is going well according to globalist plan , destroying agriculture to make food dearer ,importing welfare migrants to raise taxes ,destroying power and industry creating less tax revenue to pay for more spending ,creating minority groups ro prevent opposition to the agenda . Using the u.n.laws to subert our laws ,like the communist EU does. Its a well thought out plan years in he making ,they faied with soviet union so this is their second chance. Its much easier to control totally an impoverished ,divided country than an educated free thinking united people .

  4. Ivan Denisovich

    The real tragedy is that the scheme exists in the first place. There is no evidence that the former allocation of some 11,000 gigalitres of water to irrigation was excessive. The claims that it was so were rhetorical and have mainly been refuted (for example, no species have become extinct, the rainfall has not been reduced, salinity – a natural rather than human caused problem – was easily resolved.

    Indeed, Alan. Patrick Byrne writes:

    Bureaucrats and politicians failed to understand that this arid Basin naturally goes through intense wet periods and extended droughts (see graph). Many of them became convinced that the Millennium Drought of 2001–09 was evidence of anthropogenic climate change, that it was “never going to rain again” in the Basin and that “the Murray was dying”. (In fact, it was the same length as the Federation Drought, 1895–1903.)

    In this mind frame, Federal Parliament adopted the Water Act 2007 to implement a new Murray-Darling Basin Plan, tearing up decades of complex water rules that had been tailored to each Basin catchment area based on the region’s water variability.

    Well, the long drought did end in 2010, with record rains and a massive revival of flora and fauna, but not in time to reverse the impending damage from the Water Act.

    He adds:

    Short of suddenly changing the Water Act, which is unlikely, there are solutions.

    An emergency should be declared. Water “losses” of at least 1,300 gigalitres in the system should be reclassified as environmental flows, making more stored water available for irrigation.

    Then, costing far less than $13 billion, four infrastructure projects could satisfy both the environmental requirements of the Water Act and irrigation farming:

    • Automate the barrier gates between the sea and Lake Alexandrina in South Australia to regulate water levels in this estuarine lake, instead of relying on huge freshwater flows down the Murray to maintain water quality.

    • Build Lock Zero on the Murray at Wellington in SA to hold freshwater upstream of Lake Alexandrina for both local farmers and Adelaide.

    • Restore some of the natural drainage from the Coorong’s wetlands catchment back into the Southern Lagoon of the Coorong, a narrow strip of water between Lake Alexandrina and the ocean that has become hyper saline since natural flows from local wetlands have been diverted to the sea.

    • Build a new major dam on the Jingellic arm of the Murray (and possibly divert some of the Clarence River from northern NSW into the Darling River).

    http://www.newsweekly.com.au/nwmobile/article.php?id=58516

  5. Beachcomber

    The real tragedy is that the scheme exists in the first place.

    The same could be said about almost any government policy.

    The economic vandalism and environmental stupidity of the MDB plan is particularly egregious. Thank you Turn-merkel, thank you Greg Hunt, thank you John Howard, thank you Labor-Green and every water-management “expert” responsible . Thank you to the entire fascist-left establishment and their media for eff-up after eff-up after eff-up, screwing the Australian people.

  6. Rex Mango

    A pipe from Wivenhoe Dam to the Condamine should be built so that water can enter the Murray Darling and the Clarence River needs to be dammed and excess water also diverted to the Murray Darling.

  7. Beachcomber

    Its much easier to control totally an impoverished ,divided country than an educated free thinking united people .

    Dr Fred, you have nailed it again.

  8. Dr Fred Lenin

    Thanks Beachcomber , people dont ealise the depth these self appointed “elites or “eelights “as I call them the depths they will stoop to achieve their aims ,nithing will stand in their way . You only have to look at the legnths they went to to destroy Abbott ,and he was a pussy cat compared to Trump ,who is a serious threat to them telling the truth and keeping your promises cannot be tolerated . They are even tryin to connect him with the filthy pervert Epstein to detract from the clintons close association with the pervert . The guy who threw him out of a resort for perving is his mate it seems ,and the guy who flew in his plane 26 times and dismissed the secret vservice detail so they woukdnt find out about the oerversion going on ,I mean who woukd believe clinton would engage in sex acts ,ask Monica . They are not quite that bad but they are working on it rudd ,giliard , . shorten to mention a few .

  9. 132andBush


    The economic vandalism and environmental stupidity of the MDB plan is particularly egregious. Thank you Turn-merkel, thank you Greg Hunt, thank you John Howard, thank you Labor-Green and every water-management “expert” responsible . Thank you to the entire fascist-left establishment and their media for eff-up after eff-up after eff-up, screwing the Australian people.

    Spot on.
    The foundational ideology, though, is the great anthropogenic global warming scare and the “green” movements belief that humans are a virus on mother earth.

  10. John A

    132andBush #3102630, posted on July 11, 2019, at 4:07 pm

    Spot on.
    The foundational ideology, though, is the great anthropogenic global warming scare and the “green” movements belief that humans are a virus on mother earth.

    And the utter stupidity of “green” activists in not realising that they too are part of the problem.

  11. Davefromweewaa

    Well said Alan.
    I’m convinced that it’s not enough to dispute the myths underpinning the plan. The reputations of those academics and public servants spreading and perpetuating fake science and tortured logic need taking down to a sustainable level!

    For instance, the idea that the lakes were always fresh is not just false. It is known to be false. The Mulloway fishery supported 100 families according to Trove. Any professor or bureaucrat peddling the “always fresh ” myth deserves to be ridiculed, ignored and in the queue at centrelink!

  12. Entropy

    Many of them became convinced that the Millennium Drought of 2001–09 was evidence of anthropogenic climate change, that it was “never going to rain again” in the Basin and that “the Murray was dying”. (In fact, it was the same length as the Federation Drought, 1895–1903.)

    The millennium drought was not as intense as the federation drought either. Interesting fact. BoM modelling only uses met data back to 1910. This excludes the federation drought from its analysis of australia’s climate.

    There are paleoclimate studies using sediment matched with ice cores to model rainfall over the last millennium. They show an eastern seaboard drought lasting over 40 years in the 12 th or 13 th centuries, followed by an extended, much wetter period than we have now, right up until the beginning of the 19 th century.

  13. Old Lefty

    And as for the ABC. With all due respect to our esteemed host, the question he raised with Chris Berg about whether there is any further justification for an organisation with the ABC’s charter is as hypothetical as debating the future of the French monarchy or the Austro-Hungarian Navy. We have no such institution and have not even the remotest prospect of getting one. What we have is a shrieking, sectarian propaganda organ for the Stalinist wing of the Greens, and it is so corrupted and debauched that it is utterly beyond retrieval.

  14. Frank Walker from National Tiles

    Amazing stuff, Entropy.

    Anyway…the MDB plan is to shaft a massive agricultural basin and its two million residents to keep a saline estuary…freshwater?

    This should be a teaching moment for actual environmentalists as to how the government screws just about everything up.

  15. Tel

    The entire Snowy River was bent around into the Murray, so whatever water it has now must be shedloads more than what it “naturally” would have.

    Anyways … show me one of these “leave room for nature” whackers who stands naked in the rain on a winter night … just like nature intended them to.

  16. Roger

    In 2007, Environment Minister, Tony Burke, a former Wilderness Society member…

    Hello!

  17. Frank Walker from National Tiles

    Tel – fine, make everyone buy their water.

    The MDB water brokers would lap up the Snowy River water, the price to keep the end of the Murray River fresh would be too high for the market to bear.

  18. W Hogg

    There has never been a better example of the low quality of our meeja.

    Any water “plan” at all exists solely to take water allocations from farmers and given to the Viroment. Water is flushed down the river unused, into the sea.

    Magically, taking LESS water from the river for farming has somehow
    – corruptly enriched some bloke who used Taylor666 for a consultancy 11 years ago
    – caused drought
    – caused fish to dry during droughts (apparently they used to hold their breath for 6 months before the MDB “plan”

    Also, apparently farms in Qld have used vastly more than their “fair share” of water, turning their farms into flooded lakes for some reason and paying handsomely for excessive water allocations for the privilege of destroying their crops. As you do.

    Meanwhile, they think they solution is
    – return more water to the river
    – by giving more water FROM the river to farmers
    – while stopping them building the water-saving infrastructure

    Apparently, a Royal Commission would help with that, somehow.

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