I am so lucky to still have a working laptop. As I watched the webinars this week featuring our new Minister for Water, Keith Pitt trying to answer questions about the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, I felt like throwing a brick at it. Fortunately, I contained my anger.
However, the webinar from Mr Pitt and another with the Basin’s Inspector-General, Mick Keelty highlighted some of the issues which somehow need to be addressed.
Firstly, it was obvious that Mr Pitt is sadly lacking in knowledge of his new portfolio. This is not surprising, as he is gaining this (lack of) knowledge from his department’s bureaucrats and their mates at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
I’m sure these Canberra-based public servants have more university degrees than you can jump over, but how many have lived and breathed the vagaries of actually managing our limited water? This is something every food and fibre producer must do every single day.
In my part of the world, southern NSW, we don’t get much water and we get even less say in how it is managed.
First, we were told a ‘Basin Plan’ was needed to protect the environment and provide everyone with a fair share of our limited water.
Then a plan was developed by our bureaucrats with preconceived agendas, which led to some false modelling and assumptions. On the ground the Basin Plan has led to serious unintended consequences, so we have a plan which is at odds with providing the ‘fairness’ or ‘balance’ that we were promised in the 2007 Water Act.
Now, instead of ‘saving’ the Murray River we have turned it into a drainage channel for the vast quantities of water which the ‘plan’ determined were needed for South Australia, exacerbated by uncontrolled downstream plantings that also require vast quantities.
So what are we left with?
- We have a Federal Environment Minister who won’t call out the environmental damage in her own electorate or do anything to fix our water woes, despite all the ranting before last year’s election.
- We have a Federal Water Minister who doesn’t seem to know much about what’s going on in his portfolio.
- We have the MDBA (which the government has been told numerous times needs to be split up, including by its own Productivity Commission) which won’t acknowledge there’s a problem, probably because that would further highlight its own failings.
So I listen to the webinars and almost scream in anger and frustration at our political system which forces farmers off the land, hurts struggling rural communities and damages our precious environment.
This is all led by a Water Minister who lacks understanding of the issues, but as yet has barely been sighted by anyone who is directly affected by his government’s lack of empathy to myself and fellow food and fibre producers.
My laptop is so lucky it didn’t wear a brick.