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At the National Press Club « Previous | |Next »
February 21, 2003

this is not good news. It says that:

"A bleak picture of the nation was released today by the national statistician, showing Australians are getting wealthier but don't care as much about the environment as they once did, with water use and energy consumption increasing dramatically, and agriculture degrading soil and water quality....

...water use rose dramatically. Consumption of Australia's freshwater resources from lakes, rivers and underground rose to 23,300 gigalitres annually in 1996-97, from 14,600 GL in 1983-84."

That makes an interesting backdrop to the speech given by Mike Rann, the Premier of SA, at the National Press Club in Adelaide on Wednesday. The event is well organized and tightly run for ABC television with all question pre-planned. The sponaneity takes place at some of the lunch tables. Tim Flannery, the Director of the SA Musem, was the other speaker.

Rann's speech was a long but well crafted. Rann stated how bad things were for the River Murray from the perspective of SA He then argued for the need for the basin states and commonwealth to treat the illhealth of the River Murray as a national crisis at CoAG by cooperating on getting major environmental flows into the river asap.

What was SA going to do to pull its weight as an equal basin partner? Well it has a River Murray Act before State Parliament to control major developemnt along the River; it has announced its intention to proceed with a 20 year water-proofing Adelaide plan to recycling storm and waste water to cut Adelaide's dependence on River Murray water; and it is putting solar panels on the roof of the SA Musem.Water restrictions for Adelaide were dismissed as a gimmick in favour of substance.

Yet there was no healthy rivers strategy for the Eastern Mt. Lofty Ranges; no farm dams policy; no intention of clawing backwater from irrigators; no solar power desalinisation plant to take Whyalla and the other cities of the Northern Spencer Gulf off River Murray water; no intention of re voluntarily reducing the cap in its territory; no incentives to green production and increase water efficiency in the wineries; no intention to flood the River Murray's wetlands with topped-up water during a wet winter; no environmental allocation for wetlands including Chowilla and the Coorong.

It was the usual fingering the eastern states to claw back the water for environmental flows. SA plans to hold a big River Murray forum next week as a leverage to establish a consensus position to take to the next CoAG meeting. Cooperation not conflcit was the key to move things forward. The River Murray had to be treated like guns---as a national imperative that required immediate and resolute action.

SA's Third Way conception of the knowledge nation and the innovative networked state does not include ecological modernization, and its neo-liberal understanding of economic growth through opportunity does not include a commitment to sustainable development.

This is a state in the icy grip of the neo-liberal past; it is paralysed in a policy sense; and it is unwilling to buck the market. It is tinkering at the edges.

An essay on water dreaming and the Enlightenment can be here

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:38 PM | | Comments (0)