Further to the recent coverage of a Twitter exchange between a former senior water management bureaucrat and Southern Riverina Irrigators (SRI) Inc., there are other issues which need to be clarified.
Firstly, I would like to say I was disgusted with the language and tone of this person’s tweets. We have long been frustrated by a bureaucracy that totally ignores multi-generational knowledge and I believe the exchange represents an appalling culture within that bureaucracy.
Farming advocates across numerous organisations including SRI are well-versed in the complexities of the basin pl an, and many have spent countless hours reading and responding to submissions, reading reports and writing responses to try and make the bureaucracy aware that many of their assumptions are fundamentally flawed. Generally, this falls on deaf ears.
Quite obviously there are at present a range of cultural issues in Australia that need to be addressed. The culture within our taxpayer-funded bureaucracy is one of them.
This culture, on display in the Twitter exchange, also shows an extremely concerning failure to adequately understand some of the key issues which are impacting on various aspects of the basin plan including its unintended environmental damage, greater than anticipated social and economic damage, and the inability to develop solutions to a plan that is obviously not working (as has been highlighted in many, many reports and inquiries).
And it is this last point that is at the core of the problem. SRI and numerous other organisations have suggested some reasonable, achievable solutions that could return the promised and non-existent balance to the plan.
The former bureaucrat in the Twitter tirade asked: “Which parts of the river regulation system do you (SRI) want removed after the barrages are gone?” An important point to note is that SRI has never advocated removal of the barrages, rather we advocate for infrastructure works to improve their efficiency, and as a consequence help our nation save water.
Our Twitter administrator responded to the question by explaining the need for infrastructure solutions to protect/restore ecosystems and that not fixing these issues would have negative outcomes, whilst keeping weirs, locks and dams has positive triple bottom line outcomes.
The response (remember, this is from a person who until recently was in a very senior water management position): “Mindless, unscientific, soul-destroying bulls..t. And you have no idea at all on the triple bottom line. So, please Shut the ……”
This was about as polite as we saw in following tweets from someone who controlled massive water decisions and continues to seek involvement in water commentary and environmental issues.
His other comments included: “Did any of you finish primary school?” “Is English your second language?” “You are so dumb it is breathtaking.” “F…. wits.” “Morons.” “Idiots.” “You don’t have a clue.”
I believe his responses also attempted to undermine the work of leading scientists who question basin plan assumptions, though unfortunately that is not unusual any more in Australian political and bureaucratic circles. It seems if you have taxpayer dollars and a political agenda the preferred approach is to fund those who support the agenda and try to discredit those who don’t.
More than anything, this highlights why we need to reassess the basin plan, the assumptions on which it was built and the damaging unintended consequences that the bureaucracy will not acknowledge, possibly through fear of losing taxpayer funding.
Many parts of rural Australia are hurting and is it any wonder if we have had government employees like the one involved in this episode leading the way.
Surely governments must take stock, take notice and start taking remedial action.