ONCE upon a time there was a turkey that lived in a pen. Every morning a farmer brought food and water and talked to the turkey with soothing words.
The turkey thought it was special and would always be looked after.
Then one Christmas Eve, the farmer came with an axe instead of food.
Many organisations in rural Australia behave like turkeys. They are happily taking money from government believing they will keep getting fed. Of course government is handing out a lot of money at the moment.
In return, organisations might complain publicly just a bit about government. But mostly these organisations keep sending their representatives off to meetings and their leaders happily sit down with Ministers who feed them soothing words.
All the while, at the behest of environmental groups, Commonwealth and State governments, whether Coalition or Labour, have continued in the past decade or two to enact regulation and legislation that undermines food production.
It’s justified on the basis that environmentalists are the good guys, while farmers exploit natural resources for profit.
In the next few months there is an opportunity for some farm organisations to stop behaving as turkeys and instead bite the hand that has fed them so generously over the last year. It would involve calling the bluff of the Commonwealth Government over the Murray Darling water plan.
Instead of complaining politely about the plan on the basis industry might lose some water, what about rural leaders pointing out the obvious: that the plan will deliver no environmental benefit until something is done about the 7.6 kilometres of concrete barrage that sits across the bottom of the Lower Lakes?
Anyone vaguely familiar with this issue knows that Murray Darling Basin Authority boss Craig Knowles and Water Minister Tony Burke – and even Opposition leader Tony Abbot and Opposition water spokesman Barnaby Joyce – don’t want the issue of the barrages or the Lower Lakes raised in polite discussion.
It could cost them votes in South Australia. So industry and community leaders leave it well alone.
But with the New Year it’s time for a new approach: it’s time industry leaders took the high moral ground for once and confronted the issue of the barrages that have destroyed the River Murray’s estuary.
And while they are doing the right thing, they should sign the Rivers Need Estuaries petition of the Australian Environment Foundation www.listentous.org.au .
First published in The Land, page 13, Thursday, January 5, 2012