The enormity of the Gulf floods has been overlooked by the southern media - particularly the Sydney Morning Herald. It may as well have been just another Indonesian disaster.
While eastern Australia is gripped in possibly the most widespread drought since 1788, incredible volumes of water have gone to waste in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Last week, a small portion of it in the Diamantina River reached Birdsville, as it repeated its timeless course toward Lake Eyre and evaporation oblivion.
Barnaby Joyce talks of the 90-year-old Bradfield Scheme. He was minister for agriculture from 2013 to 2018, but no dam was begun.
There hasn’t been a major dam project in Australia begun since the late 1970s - the time of the Greens’ birth and, ironically, the NFF formation in Canberra.
The national herd and flock have declined steeply from historic highs since. Eastern Australia’s grain crop will be one of the lowest.
Australia’s human population passes 25 million and Canberra talks of 50 million!
Australia had reached 400 government dams when the shovel was shelved in 1980.
I have read that China has more than 24,000 and is still building at speed.
In 1941, Ion Idriess wrote 'The Great Boomerang' supporting Bradfield’s scheme.
I bought it in 1952 and was captivated by it.
He knew the country deeply, having travelled with his government official father and returning to work in gold mining.
He could envisage the canals and dams north of the Selwyn Range (near the Townsville/Mount Isa highway), he could “see” water pumped over the range, monsoon flood mitigation to the north and water constantly coming down the Thompson/Cooper, Diamantina and Georgina rivers (instead of few waterholes).
He could “see” areas of the richer Channel Country soil irrigated - as Deakin, the Chaffeys McCaughey, McKell and others envisaged with water to the Riverina.
Idriess appreciated the skill of the Chinese in moving water for gold sluicing over long distances.
If the Chinese had settled Australia in 1788, we would be a different land.
The driest continent should look to Asia, not Europe, for land use.
The claimed oldest operable dam in the world is the Lake Homs Dam in Syria, which was completed in 1304 BC.
The Romans expanded it as they developed the drier portions of their empire.
Filling Lake Eyre from the sea would be a good start to changing our climate.
The great West Australian, Ernie Bridges, could “see” it all - plus the pipeline from the Fitzroy to Perth.
John Barilaro, in election mode, talks of engineer David Coffey’s 1984 plan for the damming of the upper Clarence and piping 25 per cent of its flow to the Darling via the Dumaresq and Namoi.
Hydro electrical generation would be a byproduct.
In a time of obsession with “renewables” someone may find the rusted shovels that were shelved in 1980.
- John Carter