Campaigning for National Parks is Against Australian’s Bush Ethos: Part 1, Buying Back Tooralee

THERE has been much written about Australia’s national character emerging from a bush ethos: the idea that a specifically Australian outlook emerged first amongst workers in the Australian outback.  Banjo Paterson, perhaps more than any other writer, created and defined this cultural heritage.  His story about the shearer and his sheep (the jumbuck) remains our most popular national song, ‘Waltzing Matilda’.  I grew up on ‘The Man from Snowy River’; a poem about a courageous young horseman who out-rides wild brumbies in the High Country.  

But few Australians now have anything much to do with the bush.  They mostly live in cities, don’t know how to ride a horse and go to the beach for their holidays.  They just singing about sheep at sporting events and read poems about mighty rivers and like the idea of saving the outback.  And so it seems every new Australia government makes saving the Murray River part of their platform. 

The previous Howard government was going to save the Murray from salinity – and achieved this through the construction of salt interception schemes and catchment wide drainage plans all administered by the Murray Darling Basin Commission.     

The new Rudd Government wants to save the Murray from climate change.   This is a much more ambitious undertaking than saving the Murray from salt.  

As part of this campaign the new government has new legislation, The Water Amendment Bill 2008, and it is currently being debated in federal parliament with its second reading beginning last week.   A centre piece of the new legislation is the creation of a ‘The Murray Darling Basin Authority’.   This new institution is claimed to be needed because the existing Murray Darling Basin Commission doesn’t have enough control over the states, but in reality the new organisation, like the old, will still be subject to state politics.  In short, nothing much will change, but it keeps the politicians in politics.   

Politician and new Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, plans to relieve the claimed climate change problem by buying up farms; most recently through the purchase of a 91,000 hectare property called Tooralee near Burke in NSW.  Tooralee currently grows maize, cotton and beef cattle but following the federal government takeover will be converted to national park.  

Internet campaigners ‘GetUp’ helped get the Rudd-government elected, and have recently joined ‘the fray’ on Murray River issues claiming to provide an opportunity for Australians “to keep the rivers flowing” and save “Australia’s food bowl” through a few mouse-clicks.   But this new campaign is particularly deceptive as Penny Wong’s policies will actually close-down agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin i.e. empty the food bowl!  Indeed the federal government has something like $3.6 billion to buyback farms like Tooralee.
Furthermore, as some farmers explained on ABC’s TV’s Four Corners program on Tuesday night, you can’t buy back rivers, not even with billions of dollars, because water allocations are just air space until it rains.   

But hey, modern Australia’s are now a mostly soft and gullible lot and likely to support this campaign which is essentially a campaign in support of more politics and big government and against bushies because they now know no better.   But none of this makes senses in the context of our heritage which was about being practical and a part of the bush – the floods and the droughts and the climate change.

Beyond Burke, May 2005. Photograph by Jennifer Marohasy

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60 Responses to Campaigning for National Parks is Against Australian’s Bush Ethos: Part 1, Buying Back Tooralee

  1. Hamish Marshall October 22, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    how do you respond to the claims made on the 4 corners program about flood waters being permanently diverted into farm storages by cleverly located levy banks?
    Have you examined the issue closely, or if you havent, do you know of any other credible scientist who has looked at it?

    best regards

  2. phil sawyer October 22, 2008 at 10:51 am #

    Jennifer… mention the irrigation related products from Tooralee station, and the cows.  However I believe that Tooralee also carries many thousands of sheep. This activity could have been continued had the Govt ONLY bought all, or most, of the water rights. But the political drive to package the deal as a new national park was apparently irresistible. The local community loses, and the city taxpayers too. You may be able to check this ( sheep thing ) out. Think I heard it on the country hour.

  3. Graham Young October 22, 2008 at 10:52 am #

    Am I missing something? If water is over-allocated to the extent where there is not enough for anyone, then shouldn’t buying back some mean that eventually there will be enough for everyone that is left? And this would “save the food bowl”.

  4. Jan Pompe October 22, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    Graham: “And this would “save the food bowl”.

    Not if the buy back is predominantly from the food bowl effectively shutting it down and the only ones left are food consumers.

  5. Ian Mott October 22, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    A little naieve, Graham. At the moment all the irrigators share what ever water is available so the claimed over-allocation becomes meaningless. Each person with an allocation gets the same percentage of whatever allocation they have.

    But neither the greens nor the residents of Adelaide are prepared to have their allocation reduced by any percentage, in any circumstance. So the hypothetical point when “there will be enough for everyone” will never be achieved.

    The government is seriously in the process of incorporating cropping land in a national park. So any pretence that this might involve even the most rudimentary need to conserve the existing ecological or habitat values of that crop land is absurd in the extreme as there are few enduring habitat attributes of a ploughed field.

    And all we are left with is a very unambiguous demonstration that the underlying intention is to remove humanity from that landscape at any and every opportunity.

    There is more than 14 million hectares of vigorous regrowth in the NSW part of the MDB and many more millions of hectares of thickenned woodland in both public and private tenure.

    The prudent thinning of this vegetation, to return the percentage canopy cover to its pre-settlement levels, will, according to the well tested science of Zhang and Vertessy et al, deliver significantly more than the claimed requirement for 1.5 million megalitres of additional river flow.

    The fact that they have opted to reduce the volume of water allocated, rather than boost the catchment yield at lower cost, makes it clear that the long term intention is depopulation of the catchment.

    By their deeds shall ye know them.

  6. Steve October 22, 2008 at 12:49 pm #

    “But hey, modern Australia’s are now a mostly soft and gullible lot and likely to support this campaign ”

    Jennifer, surely this is exactly the attitude to the general public that you would scorn if these were words coming from those you perceive as the ‘left elite’ or the ‘intelligentia’ or one of Ian’s more creative pet names?

    “The Australian public always gets it right” – JWH

  7. SJT October 22, 2008 at 1:34 pm #

    ““But hey, modern Australia’s are now a mostly soft and gullible lot and likely to support this campaign ””

    I agree, elitism.

    As for the mythology of Australian, it’s fine for us to have a cultural mythology, it’s part of what makes up a stable society. However, myths always have to defer to reality.

    Overallocation is a reality, and it does affect farmers. What it means is by cutting everyone back, everyone is losing. If you cut down on the allocation, those with a reasonable allocation can still prosper.

  8. Geoff Brown October 22, 2008 at 3:49 pm #

    In Defence of the Bush

    With Apologies to the Banjo (and perhaps Jim Pike)

    So you’re back from up the coutrry, Penny Wong, where you went
    To buy back Tooralee causing bitter discontent.
    A bitter disappointment and it makes us sad to hear
    That we’ve lost this land to grazing. No more cropping ever here.

    For the rain and drought and sunshine make no changes in the street,
    In the sullen line of buildings and the urban island heat;
    But the bush has moods and changes as the seasons rise and fall
    And the men who know the bush land – they are loyal through it all.

  9. Jennifer Marohasy October 22, 2008 at 3:58 pm #

    I never wrote about “overallocation” in my post. Why do you assume it?
    There is not enough water because of a combination of factors that vary by region and also vary depending on who feels deprived of water i.e. Murrumbidgee too many new plantations in the top of the catchment, central Riveriana general security allocations means no water for farmers when dams low and problems compounded by drainage schemes developed to ‘artificially dehydrate’ the landscape because of concerns about salinity and rising ground water etcetera, Macquarie marshes water being directed away from key nature reserves by levy banks and in local graziers interests to complain even though many have more water than usual … and all this compounded by a string of years of generally below average rainfall.

  10. frank luff October 22, 2008 at 3:58 pm #

    Some truths on the Darling, QLD and NSW govts. first sold too much water! ie the water quantities aren’t in the river to ever supply it, perhaps in flood the allocations could be satisfied. its then though it’s not needed it is stored. Water ‘rights” has become a commodity, and traded like any other.
    Should we do what was done with public acceptance
    years ago just resume the rights whether used or not?
    I would have liked to wipe the smile off the face of manager/shareholder interviewed on TV about his shrewed dealing with Penny Wongs troops, while selling Tooralee to taxpayers!
    I read recently an authoritive comentater “houses should be not market valued/traded”. What of Water a market is in full swing already, Priced beyond the many can pay. Not will pay, can’t pay.

  11. jennifer October 22, 2008 at 4:16 pm #

    I just found your comment caught in the filter and release it.
    In response, yes there are illegal levies all through the Macquarie Marshes, I suggest you scroll through some of the posts linked to here:

  12. jennifer October 22, 2008 at 4:20 pm #

    PS. I see the url I have you has links to the old website, they still work, but you will need to scroll down a bit to find the text.
    An alternative is to search ‘Macquarie Marshes’ at the search button a fair way down the RHS at the home page.
    [If my web provider is reading … I would really like that search button moved higher, please]

  13. spangled drongo October 22, 2008 at 8:41 pm #

    The black soil bordering Australia’s inland rivers and waterways is some of the richest in the world.
    It is the result of millions of years of erosion which instead of being washed into the sea as in the case of countries with higher rainfalls, steeper contours and bigger flow rates, we have this build up of metres deep topsoil that, with water added, has the potential to “feed the world”.
    This water supply is never dependable [nobody does drought better than we do] but with floods come food production in huge quantity.
    For the Fed Govt to be shutting down these food bowls in the face of huge increases in world population combined with food shortages, for a conversion to a dysfunctional, third rate national park with their attendant problems, all at taxpayer expense, shows where a crazy ideology can lead you.

  14. Ian Mott October 23, 2008 at 10:05 am #

    The real irony in all this is that additional water can be “produced” at much lower cost than the lost production and jobs from Tooralee. In WA many landowners use “graded catchments” to increase the volume of water available for crops.

    Texas Water has some yield and costing data at

    While, Casey & Laing’s “A Review of Four On-Farm Water Supply Demonstration Farms” provides detailed info at

    It is also worth going back to an earlier discussion on this blog at

    “The key point is that the current (MDB)runoff volume is not the historical runoff volume because the landscape has been extensively modified to change the catchment yield.

    Zhang, at the CRC for catchment hydrology estimated that a third of the current volume is the result of land clearing. And that means the natural runoff is only 16,000 Gigalitres. And it is only this 16,000Gl flow that can be used to define any duty of care to the river system.

    It is also not well understood that a lot of the irrigation allocations also deliver environmental services as they flow down the river to the user. And in the case of Adelaide’s water, this is almost the full length of the Murray.

    The problem with this flow, however, is that it is not delivered as a flood surge that can augment the volumes allocated to wetlands etc. But the construction of a suitable “cubbie station” style off-stream storage in South Australia could enable this water to provide both environmental and user services at the one time.

    But the most important issue is the recognition that the Murray was rarely “mighty” and mostly rather ordinary. Any attempt at defining riverine duty of care in terms of the current 24,000Gl is grossly unjust.

    At least 8,000Gl that are currently used for irrigation are the direct result of upstream clearing and surplus to duty of care. And that means the community must determine what portion of the remainder is required to maintain the river in it’s pre-settlement condition.

    I suspect that Jennifer may have misinterpreted the allocation principles as the reference to 100% of “available sustainable water” does not refer to the total flow but a poorly defined portion that is deemed to be sustainable.

    The allocation of 30% of pre-settlement flows has been used in other states as well and is based on the normal range of variation in rainfall events. An amount of 70% of a 5th decile rain year would not produce outcomes very much removed from the normal distibution.

    In the case of the MDB, an allocation of 30% of 16,000Gl is 4,800Gl which, when added to the 8,000Gl of clearing surplus yield comes to a sustainable allocation of 12,800Gl which is more than the current allocation.

    In fact, the current allocation of 11,580Gl is only 90.47% of the sustainable volume.

    It should also be noted that of the volume claimed to be “consumed by wetlands and flood plains”, some 1000Gl evaporates from the surface of Lake Alexandrina with lesser, but no less obscene, volumes evaporating from other shallow storages like Menindee Lakes and Lake Victoria.

    Prior to the barrage Lake Alexandrina was a tidal estuary that evaporated 1000Gl of salt water but some intellectual heavyweights decided it was smarter to evaporate fresh water instead. But you won’t see that in Mike Rann’s state water budget and don’t expect this water to ever be paid for under a proper pricing of natural resource user pays system.

    It is much cheaper to put a farmer out of business.

    It should also be noted that the flushing of the Coorong, just outside the barrage, was rarely done by floods of fresh water. No-one doubts that this essential ecological service is important but it is alos important to note that for millenia, this has been done by the tidal flows that were disrupted by the barrage.

    To leave this entirely unjustified edifice in place, and demand a large additional volume of fresh water to do the job that nature did with sea water is as ignorant as it is outrageous.

    Other than local tourism on the lake, there is no economic or ecological justification for the barrage. If it were proposed today it would never pass an EIS. It can also be removed for a fraction of the economic dislocation that would be created by trying to flush the Coorong with valuable irrigation water. ”

    Posted by: Ian Mott at February 2, 2007 12:50 AM

  15. Ian Mott October 23, 2008 at 11:16 am #

    The analysis above touched on, but did not sufficiently emphasise, the fact that the MDBC’s official statements about the proportion of water that provides so-called “environmental flows” is false and highly misleading.

    All of the water that is used by Adelaide, and all the water that is used by farmers in the South Australian reaches of the Murray River, and to a slightly lesser extent, the water used by farmers in the Mildura region of NSW and Victoria, have provided major environmental services as that water flowed down the river.

    It is the height of deceptive conduct on the part of the MDBC/MDBA and on the part of Federal Minister Wong, to produce any document the expresses or implies that water that is used for irrigation purposes does not also provide many, if not most, of the environmental services that are delivered by the designated “environmental flows”.

    Reasonable men and women in full possession of the relevant facts would appear to have no choice but to conclude, in light of this, that the current policy development process has been seriously corrupted by negligent, if not fraudulent, misrepresentation of fact.

  16. WJP October 23, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    What seems to be overlooked in all this, is the potential conflict of interest by Rod Eddington. How can a director of the Swire Group, the vendor of Toorale, independently advise P.Wong on the purchase of Toorale.,,24248231-2702,00.html

    And then have the same P.Wong say she was not aware of Swire Group / Rod Eddington link.,25197,24527733-5013871,00.html

    Someone needs to get their stack of Bibles out and start swearing on them, because, I, for one, do not believe that P.Wong the Minister, did not know or was not advised of this relationship.

    Trust me, I’m from the Government!

  17. Sid Reynolds October 23, 2008 at 12:55 pm #

    ‘Myths always have to defer to reality’.

    Exactly so, SJT, as in the case of the myth of “global warming”.

  18. Ron Pike October 23, 2008 at 2:11 pm #

    I have just returned from another meeting with a number of concerned irrigators from the Riverina, to find what I believe is the most important environmental debate in Australias history is raging again.
    For those who have not read my previous posts, I am a third generation irrigation farmer and irrigation developer from the Murrumbidgee Valley.
    I have worked and relaxed on the streams of the MDB all my life and believe I have an extensive knowledge of its ecology. Its continued health is deeply embedded in my DNA.
    I totally agree with those above who claim this debate has been driven by false statements and misleading assumptions.
    Lets begin with a few historical facts.
    1. Since the establishment of the NSW Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission in 1912; water for irrigation has never been free or cheap. It has always been a major cost of production
    2. Farmers to this day have never owned any water. They have only ever had various licences issued by the WC&IC (now State Water) to extract and or have delivered water at certain times.
    3. In each of the river valleys around July each year available water for the coming season is assessed and allocations made on the following basis:
    1st Priority: River flow and interstate agreements (supply for Adelaide etc.)
    2nd Priority: Stock and domestic, which includes towns along the river.
    3rd Priority: Permanent plantings ( now called, High Security Licences) ie. orchards, vineyards etc.
    4th Priority: Percentage allocation to remaining licence holders. Can be anything from zero to 100% plus.
    This system has been in place in NSW since the 1920s.
    In plain terms, the State authorities have always owned the water and had the capacity to send any flows they wished down the system. This is still the case and buy-back is a useless waste of taxpayer money.
    However before we can have any type of rational or practical outcome to this “problem,” we need to totally refute a number of oft repeated claims.
    It is not! The rivers of the MDB have been dry many times since 1788. ( details available for those interested.)
    It does not! There were problems with excessive salt levels during the 1970s and 80s, which have been addressed. River levels, flow data and salt readings can be viewed on a daily update basis on the State Water websites.
    They are not! I have argued this aspect previously on this site so will not repeat here.
    However I have many photos to support this argument for anyone who is interested.I can show Red Gums of all ages thriving in an area that has been denigned flooding since 1956.
    They are not!
    This has been adequately addressed by Ian Mott above.
    This is the greatest nonsence, but needs a little explaining.
    Lets assume that for the last 5 years the MDB was as it was before white man arrived.
    Most of the streams in the system would have had NO WATER flow for much of that period and all of the water holes and occaisional lakes would be dry. Fish stocks and bird life would be deciminated!
    So what is different now?
    Because we have built dams and contrary to media and Green opinion, have practically managed our river system, we have thousands of hectares of water covered areas throughout the Basin all of which are breeding grounds for the entire ecological system.
    The availability of water bird breeding habitat is many, many times what it would have been prior to the development of irrigation farming.
    I also agree with Ian Motts coments on this.
    So is there any environmental problems in the MDB?
    YES THERE IS: And I find it extremely puzzling that I have never heard Bob Brown, Tim Flannery, Paul Sinclare or Richard Kingsford ever mention what it is.
    Yet ask anyone closely associated with the system and they will without hesitation tell you what it is.
    In the late 1960s, persons unknown released European Carp into the system.
    A complete discussion of the damage caused would take more space than we have here. BUT IT IS AN ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER.
    So let Penny WRONG do something useful with her bag full of money.
    So what are the answers?
    1. Buying licences is a waste of taxpayers money and achieves nothing. Wether the Murrumbidgee at Narrandera is running at 3,500 megs./ day or 35,000megs./day; evvironmentally there is no difference.
    To flood the flood plain requires hundreds of times the capacity of the river dams and will only ever be achieved by Mother Nature.
    2. We need to kill off the mith that dams destroy rivers!
    3. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops and repeated over and over that:
    If you doubt this statement just consider the plight of the Macquarie Marshes and Dubbo for the last several years, if the Burrendong Dam was not here.
    The Lachlan and Murrumbidgee would also have been dry.
    Both flora and fauna would have been immeasurably worse off.
    There is much more to be said and I have a number of photos to support all of this but not sure how to include them here.
    Jennifer if you read this and are interested maybe you could contact me.
    I wll respond later with some other coments on this topic.

  19. Ron Pike October 23, 2008 at 3:22 pm #

    To Geoff Brown,
    As a fan of ABP, I loved your piece of verse and thought you may be interested in a report from Minister Wongs recent visit to Griffith.
    I was not at the meeting but have had this conveyed to me by 2 who were.
    A large hall was booked in Griffith for the Ministers visit and an overflow crowd of concerned citizens and irrigators were in attendance.
    When Minister Wong addressed the large crowd she said:
    “I am not here to discuss with you your problems.”
    “I am here to tell you what I intend to do to save the Murray Darling Basin from climate change.”
    “Climate change demands that we do things differently and if that means that Australia has to import food, well that is better than allowing the rivers to die.”
    She then went on to detail how much money she had to buy “water “and refused to enter into any discussions.
    IN Penny Wong we have a dangerous, ideology driven Minister who has NO practical understanding of her portifilo and is not prepared to learn.
    I have also attempted to speak directly with her and to meet with her; all without responce.

  20. cohenite October 23, 2008 at 3:59 pm #

    Ron; you didn’t go through the right channels (sic); our very own luke is a great fan of the Wong and no doubt can assist you in having the right doors opened; it is a shame, however, that her ideology is such that it prioritises ‘nature’ before people; in fact this is at the heart of the AGW debate: the ideology which regards natural process as preferential to the exigencies of humanity’s civilizing progress; the Wong’s statement about her intentions with the MDB indicates that the levers of power are now in the hands of the ‘naturalists’.

  21. Ian Mott October 23, 2008 at 4:09 pm #

    I must say, Ron Pike, that I much prefer agreeing with you than arguing with you. And on this issue agreeing is very easy indeed.

    You need to get your local irrigators group to fund an injunction to be served on Wong to prevent her from making an improper exercise of power. The grounds being both her and the MDBC’s consistent failure to take “relevant matters into account” in respect of River flows.

    Those relevant matters would include the fact that the pre-settlement runoff was only 16,000GL not the 24,000GL usually trotted out by the water mafia.

    It could include her failure to consider the number of days (and number of stream kilometres) in the past 5 years when river flows were well in excess of those that would have taken place under “natural” conditions.

    And it could include the high portion of so-called “diversions” that deliver the same services as “environmental flows” prior to leaving the river.

    And it could include her failure to consider the way riparian habitat services have been expanded along irrigation ditches etc.

    And it could include her failure to consider more cost effective methods of obtaining any desired increase in river flows.

    If you need any assitance with this I would be glad to help.

  22. Ron Pike October 23, 2008 at 6:56 pm #

    To Cohenite,
    Who the hell is Luke?
    Further, Nature and People are inevitably linked in a wonderful journey, of which our personal lives are miniscule but important to the future of mankind.
    Foolishness as displayed by Penny WRONG must be defeated.
    Modern Man is much smarter than this nonsence.

  23. Ron Pike October 23, 2008 at 7:19 pm #

    To Ian Mott,
    Thanks for the offer which I happily accept.
    I am now retired and living at Sapphire Beach north of Coffs Harbour, so I believe we are not too distant.
    What I have been trying, mostly unsuccessfully to do, is get a contingent of media folk to accompany me on a factual tour of the MDB with the object of getting some truth and facts into the MSM, as opposed to sensationalist headlines.
    While I have been successful in gaining personal agreement ( I do not wish to mention names); follow through and any desire for truthful reporting is not on the agenda of most of our MSM.
    It is this self serving , I know best what is right for Australia atitude, that seems to have engrossed our should be Fourth Estate, and has allowed this debate to be highjacked by radical environmentalism.
    I am passionately committed to this cause, because of its importance to the future of Australia and prepared to debate the issue anywhere, anytime with anybody.

  24. Ron Pike October 23, 2008 at 7:43 pm #

    Just to add some wood to the fire.
    It says much about the lack of understanding of the hydrology of the MDB, when so much recent discussion and wasted money has been expended on flows in the Darling river and its tributeries.
    If there really was a need to increase the flow in the lower Murray (which there isn’t).
    The last place a water wise person would go looking would be the Darling river.
    Despite the huge area of the Darling catchment it only provides on average less than 6% of the natural flow of the Murray river.
    It is also the most highly variable flow of all the catchments.
    So why is so much media and Wong effort being expended on this most unlikely source?
    Sensationalist, uninformed reporting!
    Where does the majority and most reliable natural flow of the Murray come from?
    The mountains of NE Victoria.
    The Murray, Mitta Mitta, Kiewa, Ovens, King and Goulbourn rivers provide 63% of the natural flow of the Murray river.
    That is where most of the large storages are and is why the Victorian Government is very reluctant to give much away.

  25. Graham Young October 23, 2008 at 10:58 pm #

    Jen, thanks for responding to my comment, but I still don’t understand what you are saying. “Over allocation” is implicit in the post, unless I am mistaken as to the stated reason for the government resuming Tooralee.

    Ian says that a sustainable allocation is more than is currently allocated, and that we can also increase the amount of water available by thinning forest. What is your view on the sustainable allocation?

    Are we over- or under-allocated? (And for the purposes of that question I think we should discard Ian’s point about thinning, because unless it happens, that water isn’t available to the system.)

  26. Geoff Brown October 24, 2008 at 9:59 am #

    I totally agree with your opinion of Ms Wong. I have written her three letters, emailed her twice and sent 2 enquiries to her climate change office. Not even an acknowledgement.
    Not Government by the people for the people but Government
    by the Government for the Government.

    Perhaps we should petition to change the name of the House of “Representatives.”

  27. amused October 24, 2008 at 10:45 am #

    If he wasn’t the man from snowy river, he’d be the man walking down the road.
    Romantic nonsence.
    Tooralee was a Peter Andrews. “Let’s dam the creek and make the farm green”.

  28. Nichole Hoskin October 24, 2008 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Graham,

    The main problem with the use of the term ‘over allocation’ is that Governments have tended to just state that water has been over allocated without clearly defining what over allocation means.

    The Intergovernmental Agreement on Addressing Water Over allocation and Achieving Environmental Objectives in the Murray-Darling Basin uses the term ‘over allocation’, but the documents interpretation section (11) states,
    “In this Agreement, words and phrases have the same meaning as in the National Water Initiative Intergovernmental Agreement, the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement (1992) and the Murray-Darling Basin Act (1993).”

    However, neither the Murray-Darling Basin Act or the Agreement defines the meaning of ‘over allocation’.

    Schedule B(i) states,
    “overallocation – refers to situations where with full development of water access entitlements in a particular system, the total volume of water able to be extracted by entitlement holders at a given time exceeds the environmentally sustainable level of extraction for that system.”
    “environmentally sustainable level of extraction – the level of water extraction from a particular system which, if exceeded would compromise key environmental assets, or ecosystem functions and the productive base of the resource.”

    I wonder how we know what level of water extraction will compromise key environmental assets or ecosystem functions?

  29. Ian Mott October 24, 2008 at 12:04 pm #

    Graham, when the allocations were made it was with full knowledge of the volume of flows in the system. And those flows were considered adequate to the task.

    Since that time a number of material changes have taken place;

    1. vegetation thickenning on both public and private land has expanded considerably to reduce the volume of flows,
    2. The greens and their departmental goons started arguing on the implied assumption that irrigation water provided zero ecological services as it flowed down the river to the point where it was extracted,
    3. And as a consequence, they also implied that only dedicated “environmental flows” delivered environmental benefits to the system,
    4. They also implied that the volume of water in the river was a direct surrogate for the ecological health of the river system. Ergo, a dry river in a normal dry season was “unhealthy” while a river full of water during such a dry season was a sign of “restored ecological value”,
    5. They also implied that any reduction in the rivers wildlife stocking density constituted a loss of biodiversity when much of the relevant populations had actually spread out, as Murray Cod did, into the vast area of irrigation ditches etc, which constituted an expansion of habitat,
    6. They also went to considerable lengths to establish in the public mind the patently stupid notion that the “normal” or pre-settlement condition of the River Murray was as “a mighty Murray” when, for more than 95% of the time it was less than “ordinary”, to the point of being “the mediocre Murray” instead.
    7. This allowed the appalling scum in the MDBC to completely remove all issues of “environmental duty of care” from any reference to actual historical norms, to the point where $billions will now be spent on a hideous perversion of vicarious metrocentric landscaping without the slightest trace of compassion for the victims of this outrage.

    Let there be no doubt that if the benchmark allocation of 30% of historical median flows to irrigation purposes constitutes a proper sustainable balance between production and environment is applied to the MDB then there is no requirement to buy back a single drop of water.

    If we add back in the water diverted to Adelaide and the lower murray then it is clear that the proportion of flows that provide minimal ecological services is much lower than 30% of the historical mean flow.

    The need for flood surges along most of the system can be delivered by use of existing and a few additional weirs, in conjunction with a Cubbie Station style off-stream storage in South Australia so that Adelaide’s annual supply can be sent down as a flood surge and recaptured in a deep, evaporation efficient storage for later use.

    The water thus saved from evaporation will be enough to supply all the wetlands along the way.

    But when government ignorance combines with departmental negligence and green malice the social contract gets completely shredded.

  30. farmer dave wee waa October 24, 2008 at 5:53 pm #

    can someone help me with an equation please?If we work out how many extra waterfowl will be bred per extra gigalitre of “environmental” water,then work out how many people can be fed and clothed per gigalitre of irrigation water then we should be able to calculate how many families need to be starved per thousand extra waterfowl.

  31. jennifer October 24, 2008 at 7:55 pm #

    Tooralee was bought back because, as I thought I explained in the post, successive federal government have wanted to save the Murray. In my opinion the Murray-Darling can’t be saved from drought.

    Thanks for explaining that there is NO consensus on what is meant by overallocation. And as far as I am concerned, so much has been invested in the Murray-Darling in terms of infrastructure for irrigated farming that the river systems might as well be allocated to full capacity.

  32. Ann Novek October 25, 2008 at 12:15 am #

    ” But few Australians now have anything much to do with the bush. They mostly live in cities, don’t know how to ride a horse and go to the beach for their holidays. “- Jennifer

    I must say that I’m a little bit surprised by this comment. In Europe horse riding is the biggest sport among women. For example , in Sweden horse riding is as big as football among men.

  33. amused October 25, 2008 at 8:42 am #

    “In my opinion the Murray-Darling can’t be saved from drought”
    So whats the point in sucking the life out of a system in drought?
    This is the key point you have all missed.
    The irrigators should not be allowed to irrigate in the dry times (2002 – present).
    Wait until it rains basin-wide (it will come).
    Until then the irrigators should hop to where there is water (like a stupid kangaroo would).

  34. Ron Pike October 25, 2008 at 10:25 am #

    To amused,
    Please read my first post above, regarding how yearly flows are distributed and you will see that what you are suggesting has been the case for many years.
    Irrigators have only ever used water available after other requirements have been met.
    Please be aware that most of the claims being made in this debate to date ARE FALSE!
    THE MURRAY DARLING BASIN IS NOT DYING, but we can improve things.

  35. Ian Mott October 25, 2008 at 10:27 am #

    What a typically moronic, metrocentric comment from “amused”. As if a farmer can take his grape vines, his orchard or his Lucerne paddock to some imaginary new location (with plenty of water) to wait for the drought to end. Or perhaps he seriously believes that the farmer can just hop in the car and go walkabout for three years and come back to trees, vines and paddocks that have survived without water in his absence.

    The most offensive part of this incredibly stupid statement is that some bombed out bogan felt he had a right to pass comment based on such an appalling level of ignorance.

  36. amused October 25, 2008 at 10:44 am #

    To Pikey,

    “1. Since the establishment of the NSW Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission in 1912; water for irrigation has never been free or cheap. It has always been a major cost of production”

    Without the water for irrigation you might be able to grow wheat in a good year (300 mm in southern wet season). But on a whole, the land is not worth much money without water for irrigation. So you have to get the water for “not much” to compete with rainfall. Very hard to compete with rainfall. See?

  37. amused October 25, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    To Ian,
    this is what the kangaroos do.
    You cannot change this fact. They do it for a reason. Welcome to downunder, where for decades it can be incredible dry, then far to wet to grow anything at all.

  38. amused October 25, 2008 at 10:58 am #

    To Pikey,
    It does not! There were problems with excessive salt levels during the 1970s and 80s, which have been addressed. ”

    This statement is not coherent with the facts.
    Salt is on the decline as Jennifer pointed out in the Australian newspaper. The 70’s were wet. More water. Higher water table… See? All the trees which have been removed from the discharge are still missing. Wait until it floods and the basin water table comes up again. The salt will return. It has not been addressed. See?

  39. Luke October 25, 2008 at 11:25 am #

    Mottsy – where’s your formal calculation of the opposing effects of clearing and vegetation thickening. Don’t they balance out arbo-hydrologically speaking – so your argument is neutered.

    But remember we’re on your side. You”ll thank us one day.

  40. Ron Pike October 25, 2008 at 2:27 pm #

    To amused,
    I am bemused by your total lack of understanding of this topic.
    While salt levels in all of the rivers of the MDB vary on a daily basis,; the problem of excessive salt in the lower Murray has been addressed and will not return.
    Your assumption is without fact.
    I have been involved in some of this work.

  41. amused October 25, 2008 at 5:14 pm #

    To Pikey

    “What they didn’t understand was that beneath these fragile soils lay part of a vast reservoir of salt, laid down over millions of years.”

    Millions of tonnes on its way, and a few salt bushes and evaporation ponds will not stop it.

  42. Ron Pike October 25, 2008 at 7:03 pm #

    Hi amused,
    I have read the article and have to say that if you are relying on Fairfax Media (The Age) for your information you will be repeatedly being misinformed.
    Why do you think people like me are spending our time trying to get some truth into this debate?
    I have a whole file of MSM stories on this subject which are false.
    There is no doubt in my mind that our Democratic Decision Making Process is less at risk from what people do not know, than it is from what people do know that IS FALSE.

    The area in the photo I recognise and know well.
    It is not affected by salt!
    The whole article is a beatup.
    I do not presently have the time to explain why your claims are incorrect, but repeat that I have lived through times when bad irrigation practice did create salt problems. I have also been part of the solution and I repeat.
    Guess what?
    There are more river red gums now than when I was growing up.
    There are more river red gums in the MDB now than there were when white man arrived.
    The reason is very simple and if you wish to challenge me on this just select the time and place.
    More when I have time.

  43. amused October 25, 2008 at 7:47 pm #

    Ha ha ha,

    …..I’ve been to green gully. On each side there are old man salt bush plantations. Across the gully are white pvc pipes sticking out of the ground every twenty metres or so. These form part of a network of underground drains which intercept salty water and pump it to evaporation ponds. Schemes such as this prevents the salt entering the river system. However, their success is overshadowed by the fact that currently it is dry, and when flooding rains come back, the watertable in the basin will rise and bring salt to the surface. Because NaCl is toxic to most species of plants, and itself a poor coagulator of soil colliod (prevents infiltration of rain), irreversible (millions of years of leaching required) damage occurs.
    If there are more trees now, then why is the watertable rising? Because you speak rubbish. Shame on you Pike. Absolute rubbish.

  44. Ian Mott October 26, 2008 at 10:25 am #

    No Luke, if you or any of the other departmental scum were “on our side” you would have provided the calculations for both phenomena. The know how is there but the lack of output on this is the proverbial Gorilla in the room.

    The MDBC and the respective state NRM departments have always had a core duty to properly inform debate but you have all comprehensively failed. You may like to pretend that you are on our side but you are, and remain, in the moral equivalent of the guys who drove the freight trains to Auschwitz.

    “Trust me, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help”? Yeah, right.

  45. Ian Mott October 26, 2008 at 10:40 am #

    Why did the water table rise, Amused?

    The Murray was once tidal all the way to Morgan and then some ignorant bogans put a Barrage across the front of the estuary and raised the water level another 60cm so that adjacent land would be lower than the lake level and be flood irrigated by gravity. This was the primary influence on the majority of saline affected land which was located in the lower reaches of the Murray.

    And you still haven’t explained how farmers could move their orange trees to somewhere else to wait out the drought. Hint, ‘Roos ain’t trees, boofhead.

  46. amused October 26, 2008 at 12:25 pm #

    “This was the primary influence on the majority of saline affected land which was located in the lower reaches of the Murray”

    That sounds reasonable…
    But what about the MAJORITY of the basin, which covers 14% of Australia’s land mass?

    A 1993 Basin-wide study “conservatively estimated that at least 200,000 ha of land in the basin are now grossly affected and more than 1 million ha are at risk from dryland salinity”

    “Land salinisation occurs naturally in parts of the Murray-Darling Basin in the form of saline seepages and scalds. The concern here, however, is with secondary or induced salinisation, that resulting from European-type land use activities. Changes to the vegetation cover, primarily the removal of the native grasses, shrubs and trees, have also changed the natural water balance. The removal of the deep rooted native vegetation and its replacement largely by shallow rooted annual crops and pastures has resulted in a significant reduction in water use and increased quantities being added to groundwaters. As the groundwaters rise, naturally-occurring salts (principally sodium chloride) are dissolved and brought towards the surface, where the salt is concentrated by evaporation.”

    Ian Mott =
    “And you still haven’t explained how farmers could move their orange trees to somewhere else to wait out the drought. Hint, ‘Roos ain’t trees, boofhead.”

    Then the trees will die……:) oh…..thats whats happening? Ignorant of this great land, you are (Yoda)

  47. Luke October 26, 2008 at 7:33 pm #

    Well Motty – not many are left you see. Tired of your abuse and low salaries they’ve all left to do accountancy or policy. In the end you get what you pay for.

  48. Luke October 26, 2008 at 7:47 pm #

    Indeed “Amused” – the level of stream salinity seems in Queensland at least to be correlated with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). The PDO has just flipped – so a return to stronger La Nina events would sorely test the current “Salinity successes” that are touted.

  49. Luke October 26, 2008 at 7:48 pm #

    Whoops the paper being –

  50. amused October 27, 2008 at 10:02 am #

    Thats dead right. Repairing the landscape requires nothing more than effective land management. Although the trees do drink heaps of water, that doesn’t mean you clear the whole lot. If only the pioneers cleared only 2/3’s or so, we would not be in this critical situation. After all, trees can benefical in more ways than we probably know…such as their role in micronutrient cycles (trace elements such as Boron which the farmers need).
    Nice paper…Back to the 50’s at last!

  51. Ian Mott October 27, 2008 at 10:37 am #

    Amused, do us all a favour and google National Land & Water Audit, go to the vegetation section and see what portion of each vegetation type is still present in the MDB. Ther you will discover that farmers have cleared much less than 1/3rd of the existing veg.

    And if you or Luke had a rudimentary grasp of the salinity issue you would know that more than half of all the saline affected land in the Qld part of the MDB is, and has been all along, mapped as remnant ecosystem. That is, it was saline land prior to european settlement.

    Check out the “Yelarbon Desert” on google earth, type “Desert Creek Rd, Yelarbon 4388, Australia” and note that this was included in the official register of remnant ecosystems and accorded the status of “not of concern” on the basis that more than 30% of the original extent remained.

    Yes, farming had actually reduced the area of this ecosystem. A reduction in the area of saline degraded land was recorded as a reduction in the area of a natural ecosystem.

    So spare us all your 1993 bull$hit predictions. That stuff is all a direct consequence of Rick Farleys gross negligence whilst employed by the NFF. He was a disgrace, a deluded nutter with a messiah complex who completely failed to get a handle on the key elements of the brief.

  52. amused October 27, 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    when we talk about dryland salinity for example, recharge / discharge comes to mind.
    So to recharge we need something that is called rain. So is this “rain” the same across the basin? I wonder how much it “rains” at old “Desert Creek Rd”.

    So we live with salt. It’s there. It is not going away (infact 0.5-1 million tonnes added each year in rainfall).

    “Accentuation” is what we have to deal with. Look it up in google. And you tell me what it means.

    Have we made things better? Yes ofcourse. Gain and Loss. It is a richer landscape thanks to white man, but to ignore the problems inherent!

  53. Ron Pike October 27, 2008 at 8:42 pm #

    To one and all,
    Wow! We have been getting ourselves in a Tizzie about salt.
    Almost enough to give this old Bushey a dose of the Epsom variety, as most comments lack real knowledge.
    Just an observation on “amused,” you seem to have entered this debate with NO knowledge of the subject, but to your credit have obviously being doing some resaerch. Long way to go but well done.
    As with most science and history, this is a complex subject.
    But briefly before I try to return to the original subject.
    Salts of various types and in varying quantities are present in all soils.
    From this point I will confine my comments to the MDB.
    Rivers of the MDB have since their inception and always will carry salts in solution to the sea.
    Sturt in his journal when he and Hume discovered the Darling river in 1828 find the water so salty that their very thirsty horses would not drink. It was only after they proceeded downstream and found a backwater that they could fill their water bottles and start the long journey back to Sydney.
    The report from Queensland regarding the increases in stream salinity following rainfall is so basic as to be laughable. Any agriculturalist or person who follows the daily stream flow data could have told you this. It has little to do with present land use.
    1. It matters not what the history of the landform is, as long as it is correctly managed.
    2. While mistakes have been made in both dryland and irrigation farming, these were
    recognised long ago and corrected.
    3. The methods of agricultural production in the MDB are best in world practice and every
    Australian can be proud of the efficiencies achieved in our harsh ebvironment.
    4. Recognition of the unsustainability and problems of farming in the MDB was first
    recognised in 1938, when the NSW Gov. established the NSW Soil Conservation Service.
    Nothing much happened until after the war, when the NSW Forestry Commission began
    establishing tree nurseries across the state. Since that time with the help of these two
    departments the environment of the MDB has continued to improve.
    5. I travel regularly to agricultural regions around the world and fervently believe that
    agriculture in the MDB is worlds best practice.
    6. There is presently (in spite of contrary claims) NO SALT PROBLEMS IN THE MDB. Nor is
    there likely to be regardless of the weather. Salt destroys a farmers livelyhood! It is his
    number one enemy over which he has control.
    7. I can take you to many areas in the MDB where in the 1950s & 60s land was totally
    unproductive. That same land has been reclaimed and is now worth thousands of dollars
    per hectare. Farmers are quick to adapt.
    8. Stop to think who has most at stake in the healthy flow of the rivers of the MDB?
    Surley it is the farmers; who are the major users of the resource. Farmers more than
    anyone appreciate that an EC reading of below 700 is vital to their future. For human
    consumption the EC can be as high as 900 and to put that in context, the sea around Aus.
    is about EC 45,000.
    Back to the original topic if Jennifer allows later.

  54. Ian Mott October 28, 2008 at 10:21 am #

    Nice sidestep, Amused. But kindly explain why it might consistently rain on one side of the road on a flat flood plain while consistently not rain on the other side? You are clearly willing to put up just about any stupid line to defend your ignorant preconceptions.

    So just once more for the plodoscenti. Half the total area of saline land was mapped as pre-settlement remnant ecosystem. That remaining remnant was less than half of the original area of saline land. Therefore, the only conclusion to be drawn from this is that the total area of saline land is either equal to or less than the original area.

    This is the outcome after 150 years of farming. Zero increase in saline lands = zero threat from salinity. Perhaps Gordon Guymer, of the Queensland Herbarium would like to explain why this information was not part of the vegetation/salinity management policy process in Queensland?

  55. very amused October 28, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    “Zero increase in saline lands = zero threat from salinity”

    So all those white patches poping up everywhere in the wheat belt….that must be sugar! Of course. I like sugar. How bout you brain rott? Do you like sugar?

  56. Ron Pike October 28, 2008 at 4:31 pm #

    I was wrong Amused, you haven’t learnt a thing.
    Soil affected by salt rarely appears white.
    Further I have $100 for every white patch you can show me in the wheat belt of the MDB.
    Providing you pay me $1000 if you are wrong.
    A trip into the real world may assist you.

  57. amused October 28, 2008 at 5:19 pm #

    Here you go Dikey. Rare as rocking horse shit

  58. Ian Mott October 29, 2008 at 11:51 am #

    So the best you can do is a photo of an extreme outbreak of salt in Colorado? Any plans to enter a local orbit, of this planet, any time soon?

    Pikey, if this dopey boofhead had bothered to speak to any farmer about rising water tables he would know that the best way to prevent rising water tables is to sink a bore into the GFS (ground water flow system) and intercept the fresh water before it gets to the salt load. Down goes the water table and the irrigated crop pays for itself.

    But what do the NRM goons do in response? They look up the data on ground water decline during the previous drought and get the Minister to bring in measures to “prevent ground water depletion”.

  59. Ron Pike October 29, 2008 at 5:18 pm #

    Well Amused, you’re so illinfrmed I have dedicated a poem to you.

    (With apologies to John O’Brien.)

    “Our land is ruined,”bloged Amused,
    On Jennifer’s site late one night.
    With metro centric ire enthused,
    He felt his timing was just right.

    We’ve felled our forests, cleared the land,
    There’s desolation all around.
    With salt rising on our farmland,
    Productive fields cannot be found.

    Once were forests, but now bare land,
    The saltbush plain a scalded scar.
    As Squatters pillaged lands so grand;
    They’re vandals, that’s what they are.

    Farmers dam and pump our rivers dry.
    The red gum forests dead and dying.
    The Murrays done, it makes me cry.
    Our rainfall’s down it’s sure declining.

    Our land is ruined, it just can’t cope.
    With all this burning oil and coal.
    We’ve global warming and no hope;
    We’ll end up with a giant dustbowl.

    Now Ian Mott from up the coast.
    Claimed he was a “bombed out bogan.”
    That’s what he said in lucid post.
    And that was how the blue began.

    An old grey headed farming man
    Was browsing through the site.
    He had a spread out near Culcain,
    Developed it with sweat and mite.

    “Well Amused, you’ve had your say,
    And cast aspersions on the folk
    That toil and strive from break of day.
    To them your words are just a joke.

    Ive farmed through drought and flood,
    He wrote, through mice and rabbit plague.
    My families toiled with sweat and blood;
    With what I say I’ll not be vague.

    I’ve seen the impoverished red soil plains,
    Overcropped, with soil erosion rife.
    Bleeding soil when ér it blows or rains.
    Dust storms were just a part of life.

    But that was back around world war two,
    Before we farmers with Government aid,
    Began to turn things round, to slew,
    To care, improve, no more to degrade.

    I’ve seen the eroded, ravaged land,
    Respond to contour banks and clover.
    Trees planted, standing tall and grand,
    Across our land a change came over.

    Amused, if you will come with me,
    I’ll show you River Gums a plenty.
    Growing proud, along the Murrumbidgee,
    Last flood was eighty-four, their not even thirsty.

    But we’ll all be ruined, replied Amused.
    With all the trees that you have planted,
    The water table will be abused.
    You farming folk take things for granted.

    Reading through the site on that night
    Was “Irrigator Bill” from Tullabageal.
    Incensed now and spoiling for a fight,
    With words to match this Nutters spiel.

    From the comfort of your anonymity,
    With spin and claims outrageous.
    You know it all, but more’s the pity,
    As mosy of what you say is brainless.

    I’ll tell you, what my land means to me.
    It is my keep, my childrens education.
    It is the future for my family,
    And my self funded superannuation.

    With every breath that I am granted,
    And with science, I improvr my lands.
    My spirits there in every tree I’ve planted,
    And every acre, nurtured by my hands.

    As “Motty”knows, I treat it as my body.
    To care, improve and nourish.
    My husbandry cannot be shoddy,
    For if it is we all will famish.

    With all this scientific GM farming,
    We’ll all be ruined, replied Amused.
    Overproduction, that’s what I’m warning,
    And for that you’ll all stand accused.
    We’ll all be ruined, wrote Amused.


    This I adapted from a poem I wrote called “SAID BOB BROWN.”


  1. Jennifer Marohasy » Aussie Farmers: Not Beaten by Salt, But Drought and Government Policies - November 18, 2008

    […] have entered into the market to buy large amounts of water with no set plan and have absolutely no regard for the social and economic costs to the local and regional communities of water leaving their […]

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