On the 4th July, 2008 I sent the following email to my friend Malcolm Turnbull. I am tempted to say "I told you so"!
Listening to this morning's ABC Radio prompts me to 'write'. I have always had a predilection to telling other people, particularly politicians, how to do their jobs! Now that I don't have one myself (retired) I can further indulge myself in this annoying habit!
As a one time resident of S.A. I am acutely aware of the water hang-ups of the locals. If you live in the driest state in the driest continent and only have one decent river and you live on the rear (arse) end of that, you are sure to have a hang-up. Primary school children in Adelaide are taught that SA is discriminated against by those awful bastards upstream in Queensland, NSW (including the ACT) and Victoria who take all the water. The South Australians have, over the years, exploited this "I'm badly done by" attitude to the point that they have the best deal of all in the basin (have a look at their irrigation allocations in the last few years), pipe water all over the place and are quite profligate in its use.
The 'elephant in the room', which they never mention, are the barrages at the mouth of the river. Under natural conditions the water in the lower lakes varied from being salt to fresh depending on river flows. Once the barrages were built it became continually fresh and the expectation developed that there should always be sufficient fresh water from upstream to keep them high. The option of doing what would have happened under natural conditions and allow the salt water in, is never contemplated. Without this natural flushing it is no wonder the mouth of the Murray closes over more than it did under natural conditions.Most of the statements about the ecological collapse of the river refer to the lower lakes.
Against that backdrop, what a worry it is to have the key players in the debate now all S.A. based- Penny Wong, Mike Young and now Nick Xenothon!! I think Mike Young is quite right in saying that an absolute 'cap' figure is no way to manage a highly variable situation. We need to deal in shares of an ever moving total. However, he is quite wrong in never acknowledging the barrages issue and even suggesting that the massive evaporation of fresh water from the lower lakes should be a first call on the river.
It seems to me to be increasingly clear that the conventional wisdom is under very strong challenge. There has been no warming over the last ten years and the link between atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and warming is very weak. If there is a problem, if India and China and the rest of the developing world do nothing, what is the purpose of Australians being 'holier than thou' and inflicting economic pain for no measurable impact on the global position. I hope you have a chance to read Colin Robinson's paper that I emailed you yesterday.
My, ever humble, view is that Australia should do nothing in a regulatory sense and allow all those "virtuous greens" who apparently make up a significant part of our population, to act independently and freely! With all of the concerns about costs, particularly fuel costs, now might be the right time for the Opposition to really differentiate itself and take such a position. You might have a problem with Greg Hunt!