May Your Christmas be Replete with Food

LAST week I got to fly over the Murray River’s mouth and Coorong with two, hard-working, cross-bench Senators, Bob Day and David Leyonhjelm. That was immediately after the Senate Select Committee hearing in Goolwa*.  You may yawn: issues discussed included the availability and price of water for food production.

From left to right: Max Rheese, Senator David Leyonhjelm, Jennifer Marohasy, Senator Bob Day, the pilot (Chris), and Senator Matt Canavan.

From left to right: Max Rheese, Senator David Leyonhjelm, Jennifer Marohasy, Senator Bob Day, the pilot (Chris), and Senator Matt Canavan.

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, water, food, shelter and warmth, are right at the bottom; things we can surely take for granted. Indeed, energy and water are commodities that, if the activists in Paris, and Melbourne, respectively, had their way, we would all pay more for.

Back in 2007, when Malcolm Turnbull was Water Minister and tabled the Water Act in the Australian parliament, many at the Australian Conservation Foundation hoped irrigators would soon be priced out of the water market.

Giving evidence in Goolwa last Tuesday*, Mike Young, formerly of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, and a self-proclaimed architect of the Basin Plan that followed the Water Act, explained that the best thing to come from the legislation and regulation is a transfer of ownership in water from food producers to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, and various state government and private environmental trusts.  Indeed there are now many holding and trading water for the environment, including a subsidiary of the Nature Conservancy, which is a corporation with US$5.8 billion in global assets.

This season many ordinary food producers – irrigators who would normally grow crops like rice and oats – where given only a small percentage of their actual water allocation after the Bureau of Meteorology warned of impending drought. These irrigators then watched the price of temporary water increase.  So, many decided to sell what little water they had been allocated, because this sale was likely to be more profitable than actually planting a food crop.

An objective of the Basin Plan has always been to get more water down to the Murray Mouth, Coorong and Lower Lakes.

There was an abundance of water in this region when I visited last week. So, much environmental water has been sent downstream that this summer began with water levels in Lake Alexandrina almost one meter above sea level. It is possible to hold water above sea level in Lake Alexandria because there are 7.6 kilometers of barrage/sea dyke across the channels that converge on the Murray River’s sea mouth.

The Murray River no longer has an estuary. Ocean tides cannot push in. The estuary was destroyed when the barrages were sealed to inflows of seawater in February 1940.

As I explained to the Senate Select Committee at the hearing in Goolwa last Tuesday*, the Water Act and the Basin Plan, while ostensibly about improving the natural environment of the Murray-Darling, are in reality resulting in the waste of vast quantities of precious freshwater because the environmental flow is being sent to a region with very little natural environment. At least that is my opinion.   For those with holiday homes at the new Hindmarsh Island marina complex, and who like to take their boat out on the lake, having all the freshwater to splash in – is just wonderful.

Indeed, a past Commodore of the Goolwa Sailing Club once explained to me: in South Australia, there is only one place that we can get our freshwater and that’s from upstream.  Rice and oats, they can be imported from overseas.

May your Christmas be replete with food, even if it is from overseas.


* Uncorrected Hansard transcript of the meeting in Goolwa can be downloaded by clicking here.

25 Responses to May Your Christmas be Replete with Food

  1. handjive of December 14, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

    Have a safe a wonderful festive season.

    Thank you for all your hard work.

  2. spangled drongo December 14, 2015 at 7:52 pm #

    Thanks, Jen, for all your work on this problem. Like so many situations in today’s crazy world, we live in virtual reality where governments follow the Keynesian practice of self indulgence at everyone’s expense but then cannot turn off the taps.

    This madness defies gravity but only governments seem to be able to get away with it. People certainly can’t.

    Once upon a time living on a farm and being self sustaining would cushion you from this collective madness but not these days it seems.

    It doesn’t do to dwell on the final outcome so may I just wish you a happy Christmas and the same for all the commenters here.

  3. Pathway December 15, 2015 at 3:43 am #

    As they say here in the west, whiskeys for drinkin and waters for fightin.
    And thank you Jen for your unending integrity and fighting spirit.

  4. Glen Michel December 15, 2015 at 7:50 am #

    Some time ago I was sitting in a bar(.not on) near Goolwa;craft brewery called “Steamboat”I recall.Subject of water came up and all indicated a wish that the barrages would someday be removed- along withe the blasted Carp.All fine for waterfront and all that.Unfortunately the CONTROLLERS have no idea what a natural estuary looks like.

  5. Glen Michel December 15, 2015 at 7:51 am #

    Good times and festivities to all.

  6. Neville December 15, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    I hope Jennifer and fellow bloggers have an enjoyable Xmas and an even better new year. BTW I see that for India etc it will be business as usual after the Paris lunacy. India still intends to double coal output by 2020 and full steam ahead for decades to come. Ditto China, what a farce. Yet we intend to waste billions $ for zero change to the climate or temp by 2100?

  7. jaycee December 15, 2015 at 10:49 am #

    Yes..A merry Xmas all and a litle “food for thought”.

    Italy under the Oligarchs…Theodore Mommsen : History of Rome.

    [ Read and weep, for this seems our fate if it cannot be stopped.]

    ” It is a dreadful picture–this picture of Italy under the rule
    of the oligarchy. There was nothing to bridge over or soften
    the fatal contrast between the world of the beggars and the world
    of the rich. The more clearly and painfully this contrast
    was felt on both sides–the giddier the height to which riches rose,
    the deeper the abyss of poverty yawned–the more frequently,
    amidst that changeful world of speculation and playing at hazard,
    were individuals tossed from the bottom to the top and again
    from the top to the bottom. The wider the chasm by which the two worlds
    were externally divided, the more completely they coincided
    in the like annihilation of family life–which is yet the germ
    and core of all nationality–in the like laziness and luxury,
    the like unsubstantial economy, the like unmanly dependence,
    the like corruption differing only in its tariff, the like criminal
    demoralization, the like longing to begin the war with property.
    Riches and misery in close league drove the Italians out of Italy,
    and filled the peninsula partly with swarms of slaves, partly
    with awful silence. It is a terrible picture, but not one peculiar
    to Italy; wherever the government of capitalists in a slave-state
    has fully developed itself, it has desolated God’s fair world
    in the same way as rivers glisten in different colours, but a common
    sewer everywhere looks like itself, so the Italy of the Ciceronian epoch
    resembles substantially the Hellas of Polybius and still more decidedly
    the Carthage of Hannibal’s time, where in exactly similar fashion
    the all-powerful rule of capital ruined the middle class, raised trade
    and estate-farming to the highest prosperity, and ultimately led to a–
    hypocritically whitewashed–moral and political corruption of the nation.
    All the arrant sins that capital has been guilty of against nation
    and civilization in the modern world, remain as far inferior
    to the abominations of the ancient capitalist-states as the free man,
    be he ever so poor, remains superior to the slave; and not until
    the dragon-seed of North America ripens, will the world have again
    similar fruits to reap.”

  8. Debbie December 15, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

    I think your post has conflated definitions Jaycee?

    An Oligarchy is not the same as Capitalism.

    It’s also not clear how your post is relevant to Jen’s piece?

    Best wishes to all for Christmas.
    From this MDB irrigator, a huge thanks to Jen for exposing some of the nonsense.
    This plan was not based on ‘best available science’.
    The MDBA just prattle on with vague unsupportable references to bird and fish breeding events, volumes of water in prettily presented modelling and prettily presented PR pieces on their website.
    They are not interested about what’s really happening to real people who live and work in the real MDB environment.
    They have continually ignored the fact that the Coorong did not traditionally get its water from the Murray and the fact that the Lower Murray has an estuarine history.
    The environmental damage they are causing to the rivers, the ephemeral wetlands and communities upstream is also conveniently ignored by the MDBA.
    Riverbank erosion, drowning gums, carp proliferation, weed invasion, waterlogged and dying native grasses, native fish kills, black water events, flooding of private property, jamming up the creeks and tributaries, the nightmare that’s developing in the lower Darling, poor water quality etc & ect & ETCETERA!!
    The birds are just as happy feeding and breeding on my irrigation property. They don’t seem to want to obey what the MDBA says they should be doing.


  9. jaycee December 15, 2015 at 12:27 pm #

    Debbie..: ” I think your post has conflated definitions Jaycee?

    An Oligarchy is not the same as Capitalism.”

    That piece was a direct quote from Mommsen’s “History of Rome”, with your assertion, I am in a quandary…: Do I negate the writings of a nineteenth century historian, the equal of Edward Gibbon, drawing on many decades and over forty thousand volumes of research material…winner of one of if not THE first Nobel Prize for his three sublime volumes on the subject…or do I admit error and adopt Debbies facile wiki’ download?

    Decisions, decisions…tell you what..; I’ll let Prof’ Marohasy decide between the two…can’t be any fairer than that!

    What say you ; Jen’?

  10. jaycee December 15, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    By the way..Thank you Jen’ for the Hansard report..I have downloaded it and I am perusing it…

  11. beththeserf December 15, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    Thx, Jennifer for by-passing virtual-reality cli-sci … sigh. (

    Speaking of food, where would we be w/out Ol’ King Coal
    cheap, efficient energy. The last famine in the West, not
    as an event f war or blockade, was in 1866/68 in Finland
    and Northern Sweden


  12. beththeserf December 15, 2015 at 5:04 pm #

    A serf’s thoughts on ‘Food and Famine.

  13. Debbie December 15, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

    The wiki definitions were the easiest ones to link.
    Look them up for yourself.
    Oligarchy & Capitalism are not the same by definition.
    I’m still wondering about the relevance to Jennifer’s post?
    She is questioning how the lakes could be one metre above sea level while our capacity to produce food and fibre is being compromised.
    How does your “History of Rome” quote relate to that?

  14. Debbie December 15, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    Excellent beththrserf. 🙂

  15. jaycee December 15, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    Debbie..I do not recall Mommsen connecting the two nouns..your presumption precedes you!

    The connection to Jen’s post?…simple..the vested interests of who will benefit?…”Cui bono?” I believe is the Latin expression…; cui bono…

  16. Debbie December 15, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

    The vested interests of Oligarchs or Capitalists????????????????

  17. jaycee December 15, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

    Debbie..I think I can hear those ‘bidgee crickets calling you to sing a song with them…off you go!

  18. beththeserf December 15, 2015 at 7:58 pm #

    Thx Debbie.

  19. jaycee December 15, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

    I’m getting a bit jack of you squealers!..I come here to debate or argue the point with Jen’s articles or contrariness, like this pushing on the barrages thing and i put up many, many long comments, if not in agreement with Ms. Marohasy, and perhaps not of her preferred scholarly language, but at least I put up an argument in my own style off my own bat !…Some respond with a decent attempt at discussion which I will resond to…But MANY of you “squealers” ..and we know who you are, can only bleat out stenographed copies of some biased link from some RWNJ. site!…

    Have ANY of you got a mind of your own?? about some half decent responses without the accompanying predictable link back-up.. One can’t even post a bit of Xmas “food for thought” without bringing the envy of the usual suspects down on one !

    I thought some of you had a decent education…dammed if I see any evidence of it!..A good argument is a good Australian tradition..a good front bar scrap!…I’d be reticent to call some of you decent Australians!

  20. Debbie December 16, 2015 at 6:08 am #

    You have only quoted Mommsen’s ‘History of Rome’ & then failed to demonstrate its relevance to Jen’s post.
    You are making vague references to ‘vested interests’ & ‘usual suspects’.
    There’s nothing ‘intelligent’ to debate.
    Did you read beththeserf’s link?
    Quite a lot of work done there in her own style and off her own bat.
    Is their something factually incorrect with Jen’s ‘contrariness’ or her ‘pushing on the barrages thing’ ???
    If you truly want to have an ‘intelligent’ debate or an argument I suggest you might try engaging on the actual content.

  21. Ian Thomson December 19, 2015 at 11:17 am #

    You have a nice break Jen and keep on banging on about barrages. I wonder if jaycee has read Ron Pike’s submission. I sort of accidentally made one too. Both are all about helping the environment to blossom AND doing anything , including spending big money, to provide SA farmers with abundant, cheap water. Have I missed something more important
    here ?

  22. Debbie December 20, 2015 at 8:50 am #

    No you haven’t Ian Thomson.
    With a ‘can do’ mindset it could all be achieved.
    Aussie irrigation farmers are more than capable of coexisting with ‘the environment’. The Jaycees of the world believe they’re somehow mutually exclusive and that ‘vested interests’ & ‘ usual suspects’ (without actually naming them) are the problem.
    Ironically, the ‘usual suspects’ who are roadblocking some sensible progress are the nay saying, arm waving, self proclaimed experts, who wouldn’t know how the REAL environment works if (as Rob Pike says quite often ) it bit them on the bum!

  23. Neville December 20, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    It’s interesting to look at the growth in HUMAN co2 emissions since 1980 to 2012 ( 33 years ) from Obama govt’s EIA.
    In 1980 OECD 11.2 Giga tonnes Non OECD 7.3 GTs.
    In 1990 OECD 11.6 GTs Non OECD 10.0 GTs.
    In 2000 OECD 13.2 GTs Non OECD 10.8 GTs.
    In 2010 OECD 13.1 GTS Non OECD 18.0 GTs.
    In 2012 OECD 12.9 GTS Non OECD 19.5 GTs. 2012 is the last available year.

    The OECD is the developed western countries and the Non OECD are developing countries like China, India etc. But in the 33 years 1980 to 2012 the Non OECD has increased co2 emissions at a rate of over 7 times the OECD countries. OECD= 1.7 GTs per annum and Non OECD= 12.2 GTs per annum. Just shows you what a con and fraud we’ve been fed by pollies and the MSM over the last few decades.
    OH and the EIA projections show that by 2040 human emissions will increase from 2012 32.4 GTS to about 45 GTs by 2040. And only about 1 GT pa of new emissions will come from the OECD and about 11.6 GT pa will come from the Non OECD 25 years from now.,CG5,&syid=1980&eyid=2012&unit=MMTCD

  24. Glen Michel December 24, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

    Jaycee may enquire of himself: what came first; estuary or barrages.If not a TKO self- inflicted.

  25. mc December 25, 2015 at 10:16 am #

    Hi Jennifer, thanks for keeping me in the loop, the work you and your fellow travellers do is tremendously valuable. Where in the world would we be without you?
    Have a great Christmas.

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