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a barren country « Previous | |Next »
September 30, 2006

I see that my understanding here was wrong. It is no longer a case of the Darling barely flowing. Those days have gone. The Darling has stopped flowing. The surrounding country in NSW is barren:

OculiVoninski.jpg
Tamara Voininski, Dry bore, 2002, AgenecVU

Henry Lawson's 1890s description of the country 'back-o-Bourke ' rings so true today:

The country looks as though a great ash heap had been spread out there, and mulga scrub and firewood planted — and neglected … a blasted, barren wilderness that doesn't even howl. It is said that the explorers gave the district its name chiefly because of the hunger they found there, which has remained there ever since. I don't know where the 'ford' comes in — there's nothing to ford, except in flood time. Hungerthirst would have been better.

When the Darling is not flowing that means irrigated agriculture is in crisis. Bourke, which rebuilt itself on a thirsty cotton industry, and depends exclusiely on irrigation, is now in decline and relies on welfare. The romance with the country has gone as it hasn't rained in years. Hope is beaten and battered.

The key issue is that Canberra did not think that Australia had a water problem even though CoAG decided to embark on an efficient and sustainable reform of the water industry in 1994 given the over-allocation by state governments doled out water licences as a form of political patronage. So why is reform proving to be so difficult, especially when water shortages is now linked to climate change. Why not admit the mistake and buy back the water licences from willing sellers?

Politics that is why. The states, who control water licences (now rights) fear a rural backlash if they start buying back water licences. And the Nationals are dead against buying back water licences. That option is seen as a last resort by Malcolm Turnball, and the Howard Government.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:27 PM | | Comments (0)
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