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Ken Henry on water « Previous | |Next »
March 29, 2010

Unlike the state Treasurys that are into slash and burn, budget surpluses and GDP as a measurement of population wellbeing the Australian Treasury under Ken Henry, the Federal Treasury Secretary, has a progressive tendency, especially when it comes to wellbeing, the value of the environment and water issues and the plundering of natural resources by Australians. The core argument is that development that did not respect conservation was not development at all because it denied freedoms to future generations.


At a forum staged by the Weereewa festival based at Lake George near Canberra Henry at the Winds of Change forum told the truth: that water management on this driest inhabited continent on earth has been a disgrace, and that there had 'massive environmental destruction'' as a consequence of fishing, hunting, forestry and farming practices.

In his speech entitled “Sustainable development - implications for human activity” (not online yet) Henry said that water extraction from the Murray-Darling Basin this year amounted to 93 per cent of the average natural flow to the sea. In the past decade, inflows into the Murray-Darling had been below average. ''In three of these 10 years, water extraction actually exceeded inflows.''

There we have it. It is not just the drought. It is bad water management by the states, irrigators taking all the water they get, free riders and the resistance of the national party to water reform. Thus the opposition's new spokesman on water, Barnaby Joyce, is saying that he did not accept it was necessary to return the Murray-Darling Basin to health by buying back water entitlements. Joyce's politics are to support the irrigators whose conception of restoring health to the Murray-Darling Basin is the increased profitability of the irrigation industry.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 9:18 AM | | Comments (4)


Barnaby Joyce supports the irrigation lobby, with special emphasis on Queensland irrigators and Cubbie Station. He's an old style National Party populist.

Hope Ken Henry's comments and the underlying statistics they are based upon get more coverage.

Abbott supports a federal takeover of water, but Barnaby supports Qld irrigators. Either Barnaby will stay out of the media on water issues to shore up his Qld image at the grassroots, or he'll create yet more awkward moments for the Libs. An odd situation at a time when Qld is congratulating itself for flood waters finally making it to SA.

in his Prevention: How do we build tomorrow's capabilities today? speech last year Henry focuses on:

the dimension of wellbeing that stands at the heart of the Treasury’s framework: freedom and opportunity. It is the glue that binds all of the dimensions together. The Treasury’s perspective on freedom and opportunity is that society should aspire to provide all individuals with the capabilities necessary to be able to choose to lead a life of value.

At minimum, we are interested in the capabilities that allow an individual to function in society. Clearly, such capabilities are not the same thing as income and, while they include basic civil rights and political freedoms, they are not limited to ‘rights’. Some basic capabilities include the capability ‘to meet nutritional requirements, to escape avoidable disease, to be sheltered, to be clothed, to be able to travel, and to be educated’.

The implication is that there is need to think about the right set of capabilities necessary for the population to be able to choose to lead a life of value and the respective role of government in nurturing them.