I have a piece in The Australian today on the government induced water price increase and shortage in the Murray Darling which is responsible for over 40 per cent of the nation’s farm output. Here is an extract.
Drought Minister David Littleproud is to meet today with farming representatives to discuss a fivefold increase in prices of Murray Darling water. The Minister attributes this to speculator hoarding together with another villain, climate change, which he says “is leading to hotter days, meaning droughts”.
Neither of these factors are the cause of the farmers’ discontent.
Although Murray Darling, like much of Australia is in serious drought, for Australia as a whole rainfall has actually increased over the past century.
The real reasons behind the distress of irrigated agriculture are government policies that have reduced water availability.
In response to ABC supported activists, the Howard Government bought up water from farmers for environmental purposes and, in doing so, set in place bureaucratic machinery which could readily expand the reallocation.
Under Rudd’s radical environmentalist water minister, Tony Burke, the stakes were raised and 2,750 gigalitres were to be either bought from irrigators or created (by water saving expenditures). At a cost of $13 billion, this meant taking 20 per cent of a vital input into farming. Inevitably, reduced output as well as higher prices have been caused by this government induced scarcity.
Blaming twin bogeymen of speculators and climate change is no solution to the problems governments have created. The Murray Darling water policy has been a disaster for the region and the nation as a whole. The solution is to accept the reality that the river system, prior to recent years’ reallocation of irrigation water, was in good condition. The more regular flows that the dams have allowed contributed to this as well as creating a thriving agricultural province.
The only way of repairing the damage must start with the government selling back to irrigators the stocks of water that it now owns.