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Water reform: its only a tiny step « Previous | |Next »
August 27, 2003

This article on water reform by Tim Colebatch gets it about right. He describes the new policy framework which has achieved a consensus as the way to go and what needs to be put into place:

"The new framework, which builds on work by the NFF, the ACF and the Wentworth Group of scientists, would give a clear legal basis to farmers' water rights, so they can be mortgaged as collateral for loans. It would replace their historic entitlements to a certain volume of water with a more realistic entitlement to a share of the water available.

It would set up a water market for the entire Murray-Darling Basin, in which water rights could be traded across states and catchments, regulated by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission. And it would establish environmental trusts as players in that market, bidding for water rights so as to increase the environmental flow."

But as always in this we have reform on the cheap. We have a $500 million commitment to the Murray when $1.5 billion is required, and the Commonwealth is only putting in 25% of that $500 million.

What does that mean? It indicates that the emphasis is long on market reform and short on the environmental side. The Commonwealth wants a deal on the market framework at CoAG with the states without a matching long-term plan to fund the buyback of environmental flows. The buy back of water allocations is not going to be properly funded.

Of course Allan Woods will have none of that. In writing a blurb about this forthcoming policy forum on water pricing by the Melbourne Institute for Applied Economic and Social Research this neo-liberal says that the real problem is the environmental lobby:

"The danger is that politicians will too readily pander to the demands of an unsophisticated environmental lobby, just as they did with the earlier equally unsophisticated irrigationist and protectionist lobbies."

Hardly. According to the neoliberal view of Australian history the old style irrigationist and protectionist lobbies were anti the self-organizing market. They were into command and control regulation. So too the environmental lobby.

Wood is wrong. In contrast to the old style irrigationist and protectionist lobbies the environmental lobby gives qualified support to the creation of a water market; provided there is a commitment to restoring 1500 gigalitres of environmental flows to ensure the ecological health of the River Murray. It is that commitment that is in doubt.

What Wood is saying is lets get the free market working and to hell with the ecological health of the River Murray.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:11 AM | | Comments (2)



How do you think the environmental lobby would react to the proceeds of the sale of Telstra, being used to fund the environmental flow they want?

Such a policy by Howard would certainly distil out the Red and the Green from this Brown river. Good election platform and he would know it. Watch for it at the next election, since he has already hinted that the Murray is his concern.


I do not know because the 'environmental lobby' covers a lot of diverse voices.

Some NGO are allied to the ALP and so would not support sale of Telstra, even if the proceeds were to spend on restoring health to the Murray.

Those not aligned to the ALP would probably support the sale if enough money were to ensure the moderate health of the River Murray.

As you know I am in the second camp.