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think tanks & water politics « Previous | |Next »
August 24, 2003

As usual P.P. McGuiness can be relied on to miss the main point in the debate about think tanks. He sees the criticism of right wing think tanks as an attempt to "demonise those who espouse free market ideas or innovative ideas in social policy." He adds:

"Think tanks are once again in the gun, because apparently there is a sinister network of right-wing think tanks which accept money from commercial enterprises to advance the ideas put forward by the late Friedrich Hayek, and so to serve the interests of business and the rich."

Then we have screeds on what a wonderful fellow F. A. Hayek was.

It's hardly a case of the demonizing of sinister networks in order to block innovative ideas. It is more a case of bad ideas and politics in relation to the dying wetlands of the River Murray.

In an earlier post on water politics I asked:

"So on whose behalf is the IPA [Institute of Public Affairs] firing the salvoes in the water wars with the gloom and doom environmentalists? The think tank is getting money for the environmental project but they are turning out such poor work that their ideas won't spread much. The faith in think tanks by those funding this IPA project is misplaced. They may get the headlines but that old developmentalism is well and truely dead, even when it wears the new market clothes."

On behalf of the farmers, is the answer judging by this address by Dr Mike Nahan, Executive Director, of the IPA In the light of the Howard Government putting up money ($125) for environmental flows for the River Murray, we have these polemics by Nahan about undemocratic green groups who have influence over the liberal state. These radical groups are:

"...seeking to exploit environmental concerns as a means of revolutionising society and controlling commerce...[they are] fundamentally at odds with the broader interests of society...They have now shifted their focus from forestry to farming, and are busily spinning their destructive web...we have allowed the spin merchants to present themselves as experts, summarising the 'received' research on biotechnology, diagnosing the state of the Murray River and lecturing farmers on improving farm management. We have allowed the spin to masquerade as science."

The green groups are a minority group. Their interests are sectional ones and stand for the inevitable destructiveness of commerce and modernity and the end justifying their means. They are ensconced in positions of influence in the bureaucracy, research institutes, advisory bodies, and regulatory agencies and have sway over the mainstream parties. The liberal state has become an environmental state.

So who speaks for the public interest these days? It is the farmers! As Nahan says: "One thing is clear: the farming community must confront the Green movement."

The farmers must fight the green campaign to save the mighty Murray because this at the expense of the farmers.

Why the need for confrontation, given this process? Nahan says that is because:

"The Greens are developing a 'victim versus villain' scenario, where they play the role of saviour. In the latest version of this drama, farmers are the villains and the victim is Mother Nature. The Greens have convinced large sections of the public that you---the farmers---are the villains raping mother-earth."

This is polemics, crude polemics at that. It has very little to do with public policy. It is the politics of a farmer fightback against the the liberal state's policy of restoring the environmental flows for the River Murray.

What is this fightback? It is farmers defending their property rights against the liberal environmental state and reclaiming science to confront spin.

Which farmers have to fight back? It cannot be all farmers, since compensation for reduced allocations is a part of the recovery of environmental flows for the River Murray. It is those farmers who are opposed to the recovery of environmental flows for the River Murray.

It is a sectional interest group pretending that they speak on behalf of the economy, agriculture and farmers. So the IPA does the job for them.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:59 PM | | Comments (0)