Pollies trade words as water runs away

Pollies trade words as water runs away

Opinion
Right now, there are two drought-related issues affecting rural Australia crying out for urgent remedial action - Murray-Darling water, and milk pricing.

Right now, there are two drought-related issues affecting rural Australia crying out for urgent remedial action - Murray-Darling water, and milk pricing.

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Right now, there are two drought-related issues affecting rural Australia crying out for urgent remedial action - Murray-Darling water, and milk pricing.

Aa

There are times when I feel Australia would be better off under a benevolent dictatorship than under its present democratic federation of self-interested states.

Right now, there are two drought-related issues affecting rural Australia crying out for urgent remedial action - Murray-Darling water, and milk pricing - which, under an inspired authoritarian regime, could be settled tomorrow.

If problems like this were to arise in a one-party state like, say, China, they would have been resolved long since by a dictatorial decree.

Yet here, they are allowed to drag on as we conduct endless inquiries while rival states trade verbal blows with each other and Canberra looks on ineffectually, hamstrung by our founding Constitution.

Last week we learned that Water Resources Minister David Littleproud had commissioned former top cop Mick Keelty to investigate water sharing arrangements in the Murray-Darling Basin.

Hooray to that, but he is not due to report back until the end of March, whereas action to address the present water crisis is needed now, lest another season of vital irrigated food production be lost.

Water now flowing down the Murray past dry irrigation fields to honour long-standing commitments to South Australia needs to be re-assigned to productive use in the nation's premier food bowl.

It makes no sense, in a drought of this severity, to send massive flows of valuable stored water down to South Australia to keep the Lower Lakes full and fresh (and prone to massive evaporation).

South Australia's Water Minister, David Speirs, has said his state will 'not accept' any less water flowing down the river, but it shouldn't be SA's call as to what they will or won't accept, when the national interest is at stake.

The Commonwealth invoked the defence powers it holds under Section 51 of the Constitution to get the Snowy Scheme under way in 1949, and maybe some similarly drastic action is needed now to override state interests in regard to water sharing.

Speaking of defence, it's worth bearing in mind that the SA now refusing to give an inch on Murray water is the same SA for whose dubious benefit Canberra committed us to a $225 billion submarine building program - for 12 subs that won't arrive until at least 2035!

Meanwhile (as I wrote in September!), the dairy industry continues to shrink, squeezed between soaring feed, water and energy costs, and retail prices pegged by unconscionable supermarket discounting.

It was reported in The Land last week that dairy farmer numbers fell by a further 10 per cent last year, and unless government intervenes to correct this egregious case of market failure, the rot will continue.

But if NSW were to enact a levy on fresh milk sales to lift farmgate returns, cheaper milk might then flow in from Victoria under the protection of Section 92 of the Constitution.

Where is our benevolent dictator when you need him - or perhaps her?

Aa

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