Thursday, 14 October 2010

I have to return to the issue of

water this morning - and say something about the Murray Darling Basin Authority plans. Now, the idea is that these will save the rivers and restore them to health. We are being told that they will and that they are a 'good thing', perhaps the 'only thing'. Being a born cynic I doubt this.
I do think that the socio-economic impact will be far, far greater than the MDBA believes. The idea that 'only 8000' jobs will be lost is nonsense and I think that the MDBA knows that. The state and federal governments must know it too.
If it was a matter of 8000 jobs then it is possible that these could be reabsorbed elsewhere. The reality is that it will be many more jobs than that and that not everyone affected will be able to find employment even if they are prepared to move.
That is just part of the problem. The biggest issue of all is perhaps one of national security. We grow food along the length of the rivers. If we stop doing that we need to import it. If we import food, particularly from places like China, Indonesia and other points north and north east of us, we become dependent on them. They can start telling us what to do, who to support on the world stage and how to support them. They will say, "We feed you. Do as we want or you starve." We will pay the price they choose to demand or provide the commodities they wish to have.
It is a problem for any country which imports large quantities of food but it will be a particular problem for Australia because of our geographical location and the likely sources of our food. We do not have the buying power of a large population like the United States or the backing of an organisation like the European Union.
We have a relatively small population. We should be able to feed ourselves without importing anything. We will import things for the purposes of exchange of trade - and because Australians have grown to believe they should be able to eat anything they choose all year round whether those things are in season or out of season. Importing some food is not the problem, importing a lot more food could be. It is no good saying, "But China is a big trading partner." That could always change. It is better to have the potential to be as independent as possible.
We may not eat quite as well but we would eat well enough, better than they do in many places.

At the same time as they are planning to cut back water use for irrigators our state government is doing two things that seem foolish in the extreme. First, they are lifting many of the water restrictions that have applied and that people were learning to live with. It is not possible to calculate how much water these restrictions really saved but they did make some people more water conscious and that can only be a good thing.
Second, they are planning to open up more prime agricultural land for the purposes or urban housing. They are still going to offer people the opportunity to build their own castles on individual blocks. Australians are used to this. Home ownership for many means their own four bedroom home on a quarter acre block. It is not that they need four bedrooms or that they want to look after a quarter acre block. It is what they have been told is desirable. It is not true of everyone of course - and many people know it is not going to be a reality. The government however is still encouraging that by developing housing estates in that way - and then taxing us heavily in an ever more desperate effort to provide the necessary infrastructure and services.
It is, after all "what people want".
Now I may be quite wrong about all this. Perhaps it is what people not only want but have a right to want. On the other hand I am wondering whether our need for national security might not be greater. If we are dependent on external sources for food and those external sources are controlling us in perhaps subtle ways then I am not sure the four bedroom house on the quarter acre block will do any of us much good.
I think that one of the first steps with respect to the MDBA should be to reduce water usage in urban areas and return it to the food bowl. That will mean smaller houses on smaller parcels of land. Am I wrong?


Joanna St. James said...

well on the other hand and in my experience when the supposed exchange takes place and dependence happens the dependence is usually both ways. You eat their food and you owe them money, they need to get that money from you because that is part of what keeps their economy going. To get that money from you it will take years, years in which China also has to play according to your rules because there is really no enforcer to make Australia pay the money back.
Americans had this fear a few years ago but I doubt China will be able to exert that level of control on Australia at the risk of alienating other commonwealth countries and its other allies.
That said I still do not support Australia's future dependence on China, i hope this makes some sense

Rachel Fenton said...

What if Australia stopped exporting goods to NZ and kept them for itself? Then NZ could support its own produce and not export to the UK and....oh, I

Interesting point Joanna highlights about trade with China.

catdownunder said...

It is all of course much more complex than I made it out to be - but there is something in the argument and particularly for both Australia and NZ because of our geographical loction and our cultural outlook.

jeanfromcornwall said...

My maternal grandfather was born in 1893, on a peach farm in Mildura. Within a few years, the farm had failed and the family was back in India, to replenish the coffers. We have never known whether it was drought or incompetence that caused the failure, but it was probably a combination of both - it usually is! Have they still not sorted the area out?

My instinct would always be -whatever it takes, be as self sufficient as you can. Otherwise you do not know what pressures you may come under.

catdownunder said...

The entire situation is one awful mess Jean. It will not matter what they do now because they have simply left it too long and the economic and environmental costs are going to be enormous. You are absolutely right though - failure is usually due to the twin circumstances of environment (a ten year drought here) and mismanagement. So you could have been Jean from Mildura instead?

jeanfromcornwall said...

Slim chance of claiming to be from Mildura - grandfather left before he would have had any memories of the place but we always looked at tins of peaches and were pleased when we found the name there! That side of the family were all over the place - Budge Budge - suburb of Calcutta, his parents were married in Barrow in Furness, he went to Russia, Georgia and Turkish Armenia during WWI, farmed in Kent, and ended up taking a pub in West Cornwall, which is where his daughter (Mum) met a Cornish man - with an Irish grandfather. But Cornwall is my homeland.