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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

....and SA is doing what? « Previous | |Next »
May 20, 2003

Peter Garrett from the ACF has an article in The Advertiser on the River Murray (no link). He says that Federal Budget was a real blow to all South Australians who care about the River Murray and the quality of their drinking water.

He adds that there was no money in the Costello Budget to save the Murray. The Federal Govt is sitting on the sidelines as our great river system turns into a trickle, and SA becomes an environmental basket case. Garrett concludes with the following sentence:

"As the Murray dies and salinity continues to ambush our land, the evidence suggests South Australians are being deprived of their bread, butter and water."

The text is all very emotive and it plays well in Adelaide. It is read there in terms of bad Howard Government and the good Rann Government, which is saying that saving the Murray is now the moral equivalent of war. The ACF is trailing its politics---that it is only the ALP that can, and will deliver, on environmental outcomes.

The article is not a good piece of writing. Garrett's defence of the Labor Party conveniently overlooks that the SA government is doing nothing to return water to the River Murray within its own territory. The Rann Labor Government allows SA Water to conveniently on-sell water savings to the Barossa and to sell unallocated water to the Clare Valley for further vineyard development.

It is still the old story of water for development not water for the River Murray that is happening on the ground within SA. Just like the old days SA is continuing to build new pipelines to divert water from the River Murray for agricultural purposes. What has changed, as a result of neo-liberal policies to create a water market, is that a corporatised SA Water is selling the ecological health of environment short to make a profit.

Making a profit is perfectly rational for a self-interested maximising corporation not acting in the public interest. SA Water cannot be entrusted with restoring environmental flows to the River Murray since it is primarily concerned with hiking the rate of return on public assets .Since the control of River Murray water in SA is dominated by SA Water the way is opened up for the whole shift to the sustainable use of water resources to break down.

The common public interest in SA's water infrastructure lies with the SA Parliament. And the state politicians actually foster water development. This is not the action of a state that really wants to save the River Murray; or rather it is a state that wants someone else to make the necessary sacrifices to save the Murray whilst it maximises River Murray water for irrigated development.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 5:31 PM | | Comments (4)
Comments

Comments

The abuse of the Murray is a classic case of tragedy of the commons.

Why not extend property rights over water resources? This will ensure they are used to their most valued ends.

It will not, however, ensure that these resources are put to the ends designed for them by the ACF.

Alan
I agree totally with the tragedy of the commons bit.

And I grant that extending property rights over water and water trading will help to ensure water efficiency and shift water to the high value producers.

Bu the market by itself will not increase environmental flows for the River Murray.

As should be plain it is not just the ACF that wants a healthy River Murray. So do the citiznes of SA; many producers across the basin and the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council.

Its drawing a long bow to see all of them as part of the ACF.

BTW, my name is Aaron.

I guess it depends on how much we value the environment.

Part of the "problem" is that Mr and Mrs Joe Citizen don't value environmental amenities as much as, say, Peter Garret.

Aaron,
(sorry I have the flu)

All depends where they live I reckon.

Mr & Mrs Joe Citizen living on Lake Alexandrina near the Murray Mouth are none too happy about what is going one.

Those living in Perth would not place a high value on the environment.

Peter Garrett is a celebrity and good at media events.