29 December, 2010

Conventional Wisdom

The front page of today's Australian has no less than three clangers, all in passing.
1) Reference to "carbon pollution"!! Carbon pollution? What the hell is that? I thought carbon was an essential part of life?
2) Reference to the "ailing Murray Darling Basin". Perhaps they mean "ailing" from excessive water flows!
3) "Ailing" from "excessive farmer allocations". Allocations in the last two drought constrained years for which figures are available were only 3,500GLs and 3,000GLs respectively, not the 13,700GLs that the Plan keeps referring to and which it wants to reduce by only 3/4,000GLs.

What a strange world!

21 December, 2010

Climate Change

A quote from Joanne Nova in an article in last Saturday's Weekend Australian
"The swelling ranks of sceptical scientists is now the largest whistle-blowing cohort in science ever seen. It includes some of the brightest: two with Nobel prizes in physics, four NASA
astronauts, 9000 PhDs in science, and another 20,000 science graduates to cap it off. A recent US Senate minority report contained 1000 names of eminent scientists who are sceptical, and the term professor pops up more than 500 times in that list."

18 December, 2010

Murray Darling Basin Plan


The market researchers/analysts tell me that you wont win a "counter-intuitive" argument. Because people have been conditioned by repetitive claims of a particular point of view, to forthrightly state the opposite is likely to be dismissed out of hand. So they advise coming at the issue in a more subtle or different way. Sorry,but I am just not built that way! I like to think that I seek after truth and get emotionally upset when I see claims that I regard as untruthful. I do understand that there are deep philosophical arguments about what is truth, but let's keep it simple.

The debate about our inland rivers is a good example. It seems to me that the (conditioned) starting point for most commentators is that it is taken as a given that "our rivers are unhealthy and that this is due to taking too much water out of them". The MDB Plan certainly starts from that accepted position. I think that both the lack of health and the excessive extraction claims, are untrue. (And this is where your counter-intuition is triggered and I've lost you!) But, please read on.

It is a fact that the Murray Darling Basin has never been more sustainably productive. Yes, it has always been subject to huge variability, and there is no better example than the last ten years of record low rain (and run-off) and now massive floods. We must stop claiming that the natural results of dryness amount to river “ill health” and blaming that on extractions, when low availability has meant very low allocations/extractions (if any). Our forebears did a much better job than they are being given credit for.

A significant exception is the acid sulphate soils of the Lower Lakes. Not allowing salt water in, as happened naturally in dry times, has been a gross error and the evaporation losses of fresh water are indefensible. Certainly we can manage the system better, but let’s concentrate on making the cake bigger and stop all of this self flagellation and accept the dominance of Nature. Examine the numbers!

The MDB Plan keeps talking about the upper limit for extractions of 13,700GL. It never mentions that total extractions in 2008/9 (the most recent years for which figures are available) were only 3,500GL. In other words, the allocations governed by the water sharing plans for each major river, would seem to be working well and this self-correcting mechanism is doing just what it was designed to do. Focusing on reducing water licenses/entitlements and ignoring allocations really makes no sense. Likewise the oft repeated statement that "our rivers are over-allocated" most commonly reveals a lack of understanding of just how the system works.

Cheer Up!

Extract from today's Economist magazine:-
"It may not feel like it in the West, but this is, in many ways, the best of times. Hundreds of millions are climbing out of poverty. The internet gives ordinary people access to information that even the most privileged scholar could not have dreamed of a few years ago. Medical advances are conquering diseases and extending lifespans. For most of human history, only a privileged few have reasonably been able to hope that the future would be better than the present. Today the masses everywhere can. That is surely reason to be optimistic."
Happy Christmas.

08 December, 2010

The World Has Been Cooling for 15 Years

The following is an extract from the UK Daily Mail:-
"But buried amid the details of those two Met Office statements 12 months apart lies a remarkable climbdown that has huge implications - not just for the Met Office, but for debate
over climate change as a whole.Read carefully with other official data, they conceal a truth that for some, to paraphrase former US VicePresident Al Gore, is really inconvenient: for the past 15 years, global warming has stopped.

This isn't meant to be happening. Climate science orthodoxy, as promulgated by bodies such as the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU), says that temperatures have risen and will continue to rise in step with increasing CO2 in the atmosphere, and make no mistake, with the rapid industrialisation of China and India, CO2 levels have kept on going up.

According to the IPCC and its computer models, without enormous emission cuts the world is set to get between two and six degrees warmer during the 21st Century, with catastrophic consequences.

Last week at Cancun, in an attempt to influence richer countries to agree to give £20billion immediately to poorer ones to offset the results of warming, the US-based International Food Policy Research Institute warned that global temperatures would be 6.5 degrees higher by 2100, leading to rocketing food prices and a decline in production.

Even Phil Jones, the CRU director at the centre of last year's 'Climategate' leaked email scandal, was forced to admit in a little noticed BBC online interview that there has been 'no
statistically significant warming' since 1995.

One of those leaked emails, dated October 2009, was from Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the US government's National Centre for Atmospheric Research and the IPCC's lead author on climate change science in its monumental 2002 and 2007 reports. He wrote: 'The fact is that we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment, and it is a travesty that we can't.'

After the leak, Trenberth claimed he still believed the world was warming because of CO2,and that the 'travesty' was not the 'pause' but science's failure to explain it.

The question now emerging for climate scientists and policymakers alike is very simple. Just how long does a pause have to be before the thesis that the world is getting hotter because of human activity starts to collapse?"

30 November, 2010

Murray Darling Basin Plan

Letter Published in "The Land" of 25h November,2010

I think we can all agree with Tony Windsor (Letters, 18th November) that "we have a problem". But, I'm not sure we would agree on what the problem actually is. As I and many others see it, the problem is the dominance of dark green ideology, and classifying the natural results of an extreme dry period (and mis-management of the Lower Lakes), as river ill-health. First, let's scientifically examine the symptoms one by one and see if the rivers really are "unhealthy" or simply water deprived. Second, let us examine the hard numbers, (not the loose meaningless averages thrown around by the MDBA), for run-off, river flows and extractions, to determine whether these low river flows are really the result of excessive extractions.

The MDBA quote the annual average surface water extraction limit at 13,700 GL. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the total extractions for the last three years all added together are only 11,092 GL and for 2008/09 alone, only 3,492 GL. The seasonal allocation system would appear to be working well!

Tony Windsor is in a wonderful position to help get some truth and common sense into the debate. There is no better place to start than correctly defining the problem.
David Boyd

08 November, 2010

Murray Darling Basin Plan

In my view the key characteristic of inland Australia is its massive rainfall variability. It really is a nonsense to talk about averages for flows, extractions etc. when there is such a huge spread around the average. According to the ABS, actual total extractions in the whole Basin were 3,142GL in 07/08 and 3,492GL in 08/09. In other words about the same as the 3/4000 GL they want to claw back! These figures compare with the average surface extractions of 13,700GL which they keep talking about.

The three conclusions I take from this are 1) We should be focusing on the highly variable Allocations not Licenses/Entitlements. 2)The seasonal allocation methodolgy seems to be working well-bugger all water/bugger all allocations. 3) It is a nonsense to talk in terms of absolute numbers in something which has such massive variability.

27 October, 2010

Murray Darling Basin

There is a very widely held view that we need to "restore the health of our rivers". This statement assumes that they are unhealthy, which might well be the case. However, we have just been through nearly a decade of the lowest rainfall/run-off that has ever been recorded.

Whilst this is extreme, under natural conditions it was not unusual for Australia to have very dry periods and for all of our inland rivers to periodically stop flowing altogether. So we need to be careful that the results of natural dryness are not being branded as "unhealthy". Likewise given this enormous natural variability we need to define just what we actually mean by the term "sustainability". The question asked of CSIRO to determine the "Sustainable Diversion Limits" of our rivers, seems to me to be a question which fails to recognise this variability. If "sustainable"in this sense means "annual" then the answer for even the Murray must be "nil"! We need to be very careful of using average statistics when the spread around the average is so enormous.

I believe we need to closely examine the "unhealthy" notion. What are the specific factors that indicate this apparent lack of health-acid sulphate soils, salinity, blue green algae, river red gum depletion, fish stock depletion, the ravages of carp- seem to me to be the main claims. We need to examine the truth and cause of each of these compared with natural conditions, before we leap to the conclusion that we need to extract less water. Particularly since extractions have been minimal in recent years. Perhaps throwing more water at the issue is not the solution?

26 October, 2010


Letter sent to The Australian 24th October,2010
Your lead story-After the dry,here comes the overflow,Weekend Australian 23rd October-accurately reflects the joy of again having good flows into the Macquarie Marshes. Unfortunately the joy is spoilt by politically correct references to "government water buybacks" and an emphasis on conflict between irrigators and "marsh graziers". The reality is that over the last ten years both irrigators and graziers have both suffered as an all powerful Nature has failed to provide water for either. Now that same Nature has provided generously for both. Why are we humans so reluctant to attribute the extremes of our rainfall to factors beyond our control?
David Boyd

22 October, 2010

Murray Darling Basin

Letter published in "The Land" on Thursday,21st October-
Peppercorn really hits the nail on the head with his thoughtful and sensible column 'Nature shows up flawed water plan-The Land October14",with, in particular, his comment on managing seasonal allocations rather than buying Licenses/Entitlements. The "Plan" is deeply flawed. It fails to recognise the massive variability of our river flows, the extent to which irrigation diversions have been constrained through a run of very dry years, and the appalling waste of water through evaporation from the Lower Lakes which have been closed off from the sea for some seventy years. The Plan effectively blames irrigators for the fact that our rivers have had drought induced low flows for much of the last ten years. The terms "license", "entitlement" and "allocation" are constantly confused in the metropolitan media coverage.

Few people recognise that if it were not for the headwater dams (Dartmouth and Hume in particular), the Snowy diversions and restrictions on irrigation diversions, the Murray would have stopped flowing altogether some three/four years ago. Surely this is evidence to the fact that we need to conserve more water in the big events by building more dams in appropriate places. 

David Boyd,Sydney.

17 October, 2010


Letter published in The Weekend Australian on 16th October:
In your front page today (Heated backlash Forces Murray inquiry) you categorically state that:
"The move to reduce water usage is an attempt to address the fact that states have sold irrigators licences to extract so much water from the system that not enough water is being left in the rivers to preserve the environment."
This statement is factually incorrect. No water can be extracted by irrigators holding licenses unless the use of those licenses has been triggered by the State Governments applying  seasonal allocations. Allocations are only granted after assessed environmental needs have been met. The problem in much of the last ten drought years has been that there has been no water for the process to even begin. Irrigators are being blamed for Nature's failure, until recently, to send enough rain to cause run-off into our waterways. No wonder they are upset. 
David Boyd,St Ives,NSW


Letter sent to the Sydney Morning Herald on 14th. October:
"Amidst all of the verbiage and political analysis, there is one point that cannot be made too often. The entire Plan is based on the false premise that the recent dryness of our inland rivers is caused by "mis-management and over allocation". Those who understand the physical nature of our inland waterflows and the the way irrigation licenses/entitlements interact with allocations, will understand that this is not possible. Licenses/entitlements are subject to seasonal allocations. When water is short so are allocations! It really is as simple as that. It is by this method that we sensibly deal with the main characteristic of our inland rivers-their  massive variability."

13 October, 2010


Letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday 11th October-
Paul Myers cuts through all the political correctness to the facts. Our rivers flows are massively variable as a result of our notoriously variable rainfall. We have been through a ten year drought with the lowest run-off in Australia's recorded history. Recently the situation has reversed as it has always done in the past. Pity we didn't have the infrastructure in place (read dams) to conserve more. As the floods descended last month the residents of Shepparton would have been delighted to see some upstream flood mitigation in the form of greater dam capacity!
David Boyd St Ives

09 October, 2010


Now this article from today's SMH is worth repeating. I couldn't have said it better myself!

You can't pay to save the environment if rains fail
Paul Myers
October 9, 2010
THERE is one word that will fix the water problems for which the Murray-Darling Basin Authority believes, incorrectly, it has found the solution: rain.
There is another far more contentious word that would eliminate the claimed need for irrigation water cuts and make more water available to grow food: dams.
And there is a third word that explains why water use has become such a contentious issue: perception.
These three words are the explanation and the answer to eastern and southern Australia's water problems. But don't expect a fourth word - reality - to hold sway in the final basin water plan.
The reason the Murray-Darling Basin's river systems got into strife was a decade of record-low rainfall, not farmers' water extractions. The public perception is otherwise: farmers are widely viewed as having been irresponsibly taking water while the rivers dried up; moreover, once they are stopped from pumping water, the rivers will be automatically "fixed".
How wrong can you be? Irrigators are able to access water only when river flows reach prescribed levels. Little or no water flow means no allocation, as rice and cotton producers know so well. Occasionally, even when rivers flow strongly, farmers are prevented from taking water in deference to the environment.
But has all this "saved" unallocated water made a difference? No, because the water didn't exist and there was no "extra" water to go anywhere, anyway.
A prime example is the much-vilified Cubbie Station in south-west Queensland. This year it has been able to fill its water storages and is about to plant 22,000 hectares to cotton - without a public outcry. Why? Because in a big rainfall year there is plenty of water for everyone; in dry years the water simply can't be extracted.
Quite simply, buying farmers' water entitlements won't fix a problem that the irrigation licensing system didn't create. Rivers rely entirely on run-off and controlled releases from dams. In an average year, if there is such an occasion, there is 21,000 gigalitres of run-off in the Murray-Darling Basin - almost twice the amount of water farmers are entitled (licensed) to extract when there is full allocation.
But in big rainfall years, such as 2010, a million gigalitres of rain can fall across the basin, producing far greater run-off than can be used.
In years like this, water flushes down rivers and excess quantities are held in headwater and other dams.
It is a lesson that should be heeded, because if the several billion dollars to be spent buying farmers' water entitlements was allocated to building one or more headwater dams, food production would be enhanced rather than constrained, there would be more irrigation rather than less, the environment would be protected and the public would receive a return on its investment.
If there is one villain in the water debate it is evaporation. When the water reaches the lower lakes of the Murray fully 50 per cent evaporates. This is precisely what will happen if the water plan is adopted.

08 October, 2010

Climate Change-Carbon Demonisation

The science of climate change/global warming is most certainly not settled. In recent months we have had:-

Locally (in Australia) we have had our own Productivity Commission's debunking of the alarmist nature of the Stern Report to the UK Government, chiefly through the use of widely criticised, excessively low, discount factors; and the beautifully expressed paper by David Smith explaining the essential nature and value of carbon to mankind's welfare. 

Notwithstanding these developments and the fact that anything Australia does would, in any event, have negligible impact on global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, we now have the Gillard Government establishing a Committee of "true believers" to determine the best means of putting a price on carbon! 

What a strange world we live in. 

01 October, 2010

Banjo Paterson

The Banjo is not famous for his philosophical input. However, I have long been attracted by his poem "Come-By-Chance" from which the following extract is taken-

Though we work and toil and hustle in our life of haste and bustle,
All that makes our life worth living comes unstriven for and free;
Man may weary and importune, but the fickle goddess Fortune
Deals him out his pain or pleasure careless what his worth may be.

29 September, 2010

Conservation v's Preservation

I have long had problems with the "dark green" philosophy in respect to land management. I am indebted to a favourite branch of my own Church for putting some very clear words around what I have often struggled to express.

The Brisbane Diocese of the Anglican Church has commissioned a report on the Queensalnd Government's Wild Rivers Act. That report concludes that the Queensald Government has-

 "mistakenly replaced sensible conservation values with harmful preservation values. In trying to keep the environment as it is now (preservation) they have compromised opportunities for development and wealth creation. They have ignored other more rational approaches which recognise the dynamic nature of the environment and the fact that with sensible management and monitoring, the land can be both protected and productive." (My emphasis).

I literally couldn't have said it better myself! This argument can be applied very widely to many situations.

27 September, 2010

Climate Change

I have just been watching the Labor/Greens Coalition press conference on the Climate Change Committee. Julia Gillard talks of believing in the science of global warming, as if there was a scientific consensus. Bob Brown talks of the economic benefits of having a price on carbon as if it doesn't matter what the rest of the world does. He waxes eloquently about the great benefits to Australia of fixing our climate by reducing carbon emissions. Carbon, an essential part of life and plant growth, continues to be demonised.
These people really are in cloud cuckoo land.

22 September, 2010


The following letter was published in today's The Australian:-

"There is water everywhere in the Murray-Darling Basin. Perhaps the answer isn't the federal government's big master plan, but rain!
David Boyd, St Ives, NSW"

The Lower Lakes

This IS worth reading-http://www.quadrant.org.au/blogs/doomed-planet/2010/09/the-murray-a-fresh-perspective

19 September, 2010


The Victorian floods and big rainfall in NSW, after ten years of the lowest run-off we have seen in our short recorded history, greatly assists my central argument that water shortages in our rivers were not caused by extractions. By believing the fallacy that 'we are taking too much water out of our rivers' the whole approach of our bureaucrats, dark green scientists and  and politicians is deeply flawed. 

I note a tone of alarm in the MDBA spokespeople of having to release their report when there is water all over the place. The MDBA CEO was saying the other day that we must not be influenced by the immediate situation of water everywhere, but need to deal with the "averages"-fair enough. He then added that our current rules don't allow for the variability. What nonsense-they do, but the recent approach doesn't. Fancy asking CSIRO to estimate 'sustainable yield' of our rivers. If 'sustainable' means 'regular' or 'every year' the only 'sustainable yield' would be NIL. Even the mighty Murray River went dry under natural low rainfall conditions before we built our major storages. It is the wrong question from people who have no appreciation of the massive variability. Our water managers of old understood the variability and have dealt with it most effectively by differentiating between Licenses/Entitlements on the one hand and Seasonal Allocations on the the other.

I once heard John Howard describe a "conservative" as someone who does not believe that everything his grandfather said was necessarily wrong! Modern water managers are certainly not conservatives. They seem to believe that the water managers of old got everything wrong. They didn't! They really understood the nature of our rivers and struck a very good balance between socio-economic and environmental needs. Perhaps they worked in an era when 'production' was given more weight than the 'environment'. But, the pendulum has certainly swung to an environmental extreme. That thinking then takes us  to the fundamental "green" debate about man's place in the environment and what the right balance between conflicing objectives should be. We could be here for hours! Let's not 'go there' at the moment!

17 September, 2010

Water and Irrigation

The recent flooding in Victoria and consistent rain in NSW has seen a great boost to storage levels in most of the major dams feeding the Murray Darling Basin. It is a timely reminder of the key feature of the Australian climate-massive rainfall variability. After some ten years of drought (on and off) and the lowest water run-off in our short recorded history, we are reminded just how fast things can turn around. It also reinforces how our philosophically green "water managers" have got it so wrong. I fear that we are going to see a graphic example of this when the long awaited Murray Darling Basin Plan is released on 8th. October.

How many times have we heard that our rivers have been "mismanaged and over allocated"? How many times have we heard that the problem is that "we are taking too much water out of our rivers"? When all the time the major problem has been simply lack of run-off creating rainfall.

Let's face it, water is dynamic and doesn't wait for you to use it. Rivers run to the sea, if they make it, and water in storage evaporates. Whilst we must keep a proper balance between environmental and socio-economic needs, in rugby parlance it really is a "use it or lose it" situation. Sure it would help if we could reduce evaporation from shallow storages and if we had more dams in the headwaters of our catchments. Consider that the Murray River would have stopped flowing altogether some four years ago, as it always did under very dry natural conditions, if it were not for the headwater dams (Dartmouth and Hume in particular), the Snowy diversions and restrictions on irrigation extractions. Yet we managed to keep water in the system and to our shame sent water down to the Lower Lakes, Australia's most inefficient water storage, to largely evaporate.

When are those upstream going to wake-up to the perpetual victim's attitude of most South Australians and insist that those wretched barrages at the Murray mouth are removed? They keep fresh water out of  The Coorong, stop the impact of tidal pulses keeping the Murray mouth open, and deprive the Murray of a natural fresh/salt water estuary.

When are we going to clearly explain to our well meaning city cousins (we failed with Penny Wong), the difference between a Water License/Entitlement and a Water Allocation? The former without the latter really is "phantom water". The  failure of the purchase of the Toorale Station water licenses to trigger any meaningful amount of additional water in 2010, is a wonderful case study demonstrating what little impact purchasing licenses, only triggered by big flows, actually has in a good flow year. Yet the negative socio-economic impact is very meaningful.

We need to explain that  we deal with the variability of river flows by way of seasonal allocations-no (or limited) water-no allocation. It's that simple. If we really are "over allocating" then we should reduce allocations, but why cancel licenses which in big flows may well contribute to flood mitigation. The residents of Shepparton would have liked to have seen more extractions (and/or more storage) upstream last week and a huge amount could have been stored whilst only being a very small percentage of the total flow!

10 September, 2010

Australian Agriculture

I recently wrote a paper on investment in Australian agriculture. This what I wrote:-

"Australian Agriculture Investment

  • ·         To the nations considerable advantage farming and grazing production of Australia’s major bulk commodities is dominated by family farmers.
  • ·         These family farmers bid the price of land to levels where returns on funds invested are very low. In these circumstances it is extremely difficult for conventionally funded, publically listed companies to compete.
  • ·         An important element of ‘wealth creation’ comes in the form of capital gain on land and more recently water licenses.
  • ·         As the best land is tightly held, successful operators seldom realise the capital gains in cash terms, but they are nevertheless “real”.
  • ·         A key feature of Australia’s climate is massive rainfall variability.
  • ·         The major commodities most suited to Australia’s production base are dependent on very price volatile international markets.
  • ·         This volatility largely stems from supply side factors, particularly weather.
  • ·         There has recently been significant international recognition of the probability of demand increases for food and some large international players have been positioning themselves accordingly. However, there is little evidence of Australian institutions so acting.
  • ·         Given all these features of the industry, if significant capital is to be raised it needs to come from “institutions” who have a long term focus from a wealth creation perspective and are able to withstand rainfall and price volatility.
  • ·         This price and rainfall volatility can be cushioned by a commodity and geographical spread and the judicious use of pricing mechanisms-derivatives and forward physical sales.
Sources of Capital

  • ·         Recent investment in Australian agriculture has come largely from overseas sources-Macquarie Fund, Terra Firma, Eastern Australian Agriculture, etc. An exception has been the recent WA super fund Westscheme investment in RM Williams Agricultural Holdings.
  • ·          From a narrow nationalism point of view it would seem unfortunate if something as quintessentially Australian as broad acre agriculture was not seen as an area for investment by our local institutions.
  • ·         A significant proportion of Australian savings are now in superannuation funds. These funds have very little exposure to Australian Agriculture.
  • ·         These type of investment vehicle funds are better able to take a long term earnings perspective and accept ‘wealth creation’ in the form of unrealised capital gains. The AMP’s long term investment in Stanbroke Pastoral Company is a good example of the returns to be earned.

  • ·         A serious deterrent to institutional investment in Australian Agriculture has been concern with securing competent management.
  • ·         The industry’s appeal as an investment area has been tarnished by “too-clever-by-half” tax driven ventures often proposed by entrepreneurs of dubious repute.
  • ·         Thus, it would seem that any investment proposals chances of success would be enhanced if assets and management (including a prospective C.E.O., Chairman and independent Directors) could be “packaged” with an investment offering."

08 September, 2010


I am deeply disappointed that two of the  "Rural Independents" have failed to support the Coalition in forming a minority Government. My perspective is that a Government shown to be incompetent, to the point they removed their own leader, has been returned to power, notwithstanding the fact that to all intents and purposes the Coalition "won" the election. They won the primary vote, are leading the two party preferred vote and won the most seats of any party in their own right. The Labor party won ten seats on Green preferences, where they failed to win the Primary vote.

The action of Tony Windsor and Rob Oakbridge (Rural Independents) is a betrayal of the broad Australian electorate and of the voting preferences of their individual electorates. I console myself in recalling the old proverb-"it's a long road without a turning".

29 August, 2010

The Murray Darling Basin

Today, as I did my morning walk I listened to an old  (June) podcast of ABC Radio's "Big Ideas"-titled the Canary in the Coalmine. My pace increased as my blood pressure rose!
The speakers were David Paton, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology University of Adelaide and Richard Kingsford, Professor of Environmental Science University of NSW.
I was provoked to write (belatedly) the following message in the on-line "Comments" relating to this ABC Radio National programme.
"When these guys acknowledge the existence of "The Barrages" which separate the Lower Lakes from the sea and The Coorong from fresh water, then I will believe they are "fair dinkum". Meanwhile they are merely playing "dark green" politics. How can you make the absurd statement that the Lower Lakes are below sea level for the first time in 7,000 years, when before the Barrages were built in the late 1930's, they were always at sea level!!

I have never heard so many misleading statements and half truths. They ought to pack off to Cuba where their political philosophies would be at home.

22 August, 2010

Flinders Ranges/Innamincka/Birdsville/Lake Eyre Flying Visit 21st and 22nd August 2010

For many years I have wanted to see the Cooper (Cooper Creek) after a flood, visit Birdsville and have a look at Lake Eyre, particularly from the air. After the big rains of last summer and since, with good flows into Lake Eyre we decided this winter was the time to do it. I was much looking forward to spending Election eve at the Birdsville Hotel!

With our friends Bruce and Libby Standen we flew to Adelaide, an uneventful trip with some great views of the Murrumbidgee River (Hay) and the Murrumbidgee/Murray junction.Stayed overnight at Glenelg and at 9:00AM yesterday morning we boarded a Beechcraft King Air-pressurised, twin engined turbo prop jet-a very smart machine. This was a regular tour heavily advertised on the internet and read well. We four were accompanied by a guide and six other passengers. I managed to snare the co-pilot seat for the first leg which was a relatively short hop, for a machine with a cruising speed of 270 knots, to Port Augusta for refuelling. We were told just before take-off that the itinerary had been changed and that we would not be going to Maree, but straight to Innamincka after overflying the Flinders Rangers and Wilpena Pound in particular. We were also told, almost in passing, that we would be going to Coober Pedy on the way back tomorrow.

I was surprised that the pilot immediately ascended to 22,000 feet before descending in to Port Augusta. Good views of Yorke Peninsular, Port Pirie and Wyalla, but hardly the best altitude for general sightseeing.

We flew slightly east of north from Port Augusta and flew around Wilpena Pound after descending to about 5,000 feet. We couldn't take many photos as the windows were fogged over from the cold at the higher altitudes we had been at! It was however, good to get a general idea of what the Flinders Ranges are all about and the Pound in particular. I would now like to see it on the ground. We had quite good views of Lakes Torrens and Frome as we flew on to Innamincka again at high altitude, where we landed for lunch. Our guide placed himself in a back seat where there was no window and apart from handing around a brochure provided no information on what we were looking at-which seemed rather strange. Perhaps he didn't know!

An attractive young barmaid at Innamincka amused me with her very definate view that it would be raining today (Sunday) and that it would start at 6:00AM. She proved to be right!Innamincka surprised me with the undulating nature of the country. The "town" is down in a shallow gorge no doubt cut by the Cooper over millions of years, but well above flood levels now. It is near the junction of the Strezleki Creek with the Cooper. The Strezleki flows north quite a long way before joining the Cooper which by this stage is flowing in a general westerly direction towards Lake Eyre, still many hudreds of river miles away to the south west.

It was determined that it was too wet for us to land at the "Dig Tree" (although I noticed other aircraft on the ground), but that we would overfly it. This turned out to be laughable as the pilot didn't know which tree it actually was and the guide who couldn't see out anyway, was of little help. After several circuits of the general area we went thru the climbing routine and headed for Birdsville. Lots of the country covered by lake like water and I noticed that the lakes had all been joined up, with some big patches of green where the water has receeded, so I concluded it was flood water rather than local run-off. We flew over the Coongie Lakes and Goyders Lagoon, according to my very detailed road map, although there was no confirmation from the pilot or the guide that that was what we were looking at!

Birdsville was just as I expected, on the banks of the Diamentina. The sealed airstrip is right beside the Pub so one simply parks and walks across.David Brook was as good as his word and knocked on our door soon after we arrived and we organised to meet for dinner. I first met David and his wife Nell at the World Hereford Conference in Armidale in 2004, where we shared the platform. He and Nell gave a fascinating speech on life at Birdsville, where South African born Nell went, sight unseen, after her marriage to David. They now have some 8m. acres around Birdsville where they run some 30,000 Hereford cattle. They also raised six children. David was until recently the Mayor, is a 50% owner of the Pub (and the one at Innamincka). He has lived in Birdsville all of his life. He and Nell were instrumental in setting up the OBE Organic Beef organisation and David is Chairman. OBE is a private company owned by the twenty cattle suppliers. They toll kill at a service abbatoir and do their own marketing both domestically and export, particularly to the US.I was most interested to learn from Nell that the catalyst for setting up the organic beef initiative was the threat to the entire Lake Eyre Basin (one sixth of Australia) from the move to have it declared a World Heritage Area, which would have most likely led to destocking. A response which I feel reflected some great innovative thinking. Given that no fertilizers are used and there are no problems with internal or external parasites, meeting the organic criteria did not involve major changes to production practices.

Over dinner I was able to keep everyone posted with the Election Results by accessing the internet on my Iphone. I learned that Telstra NextG came online three days previously.

This morning (Sunday) we woke to stories that it was raining at William Creek, Coober Pedy and Oodnadatta and the weather there was deteriorating.

As arranged David Brook took us on a tour of the town and the famous Birdsville Race Course. We also made a brief visit to his very comfortable home in "suburban" Birdsville. There has been much development around Birdsville of more recent years and the town has a freshness about it. Obviously tourism is ever increasing business. It had only five houses when David was born.

A decision was made that as the aircraft was required in Adelaide the following day and as the weather was too bad for "low" flying over Lake Eyre etc. we had no alternative but to climb above the weather and return to Adelaide. We also learned that at high altitude the aircraft's fuel consumption could be lowered by as much as 50% and there was now no need for a refuelling stop. This we did, flying for over half the trip at 29,000 feet, still in the cloud. My sense and observation was that the ceiling was not much higher, but the pilot made no effort to "go see". Perhaps other aircraft told him otherwise.

In any event we had a fast trip back and arrived in Adelaide to a bright sunny day. Somewhat of an anti-climax. We managed to get an earlier flight home to Sydney, with some good views of the Adelaide Hills and the Murray before cloud obscured further viewing.

Whilst I enjoyed the outing this tour, particularly considering the price paid, was really second rate by way of factors other than the uncontrollable weather and we intend to take it up with the promoters. Link to all photos.

18 August, 2010

National Broadband Network

My son works at the cutting edge of the Internet Business. We had the following email exchange;

Did you see this?
Malcolm Turnbull's Article in The Australian, 17th August, 2010

"The Coalition's spend is less but all Australians will have access to privately provided broadband services, most of which are virtually indistinguishable from Labor's, just at a much lower cost.

Scrutiny of the Rudd-Gillard National Broadband Network reveals no fewer than seven separate reasons why it is going to fail Australians.

First, the NBN will cost far too much to build. It will be the largest investment of taxpayer funds in the country's history. While Labor claims it will find private partners, the NBN is so risky and its likely returns so low that it will probably be entirely funded by taxes. And even the chief executive of NBN Co admits the final cost is highly uncertain.

Several countries have subsidised high-speed broadband, but not on the scale Labor proposes. The taxpayer contribution in Singapore was $200 a person and in New Zealand $330 a person. Labor's extravaganza will cost Australian taxpayers more than $2000 a person.

This vast expense is why the Rudd-Gillard government has refused to submit its plan to Treasury for cost-benefit analysis. It would show the cost of the NBN far outweighs the benefits.

Second, the NBN will increase internet costs for users. Once the government has built a white elephant utterly incapable of earning a reasonable return on capital invested but assured of a monopoly over carriage of internet services, what do you think is going to happen to user charges?

One possibility is that the monopoly provider jacks up prices. The implementation study estimates that for the NBN to earn merely the bond rate, real prices will need to increase 1 per cent each year, rather than decrease rapidly as they have in recent years. And if it doesn't, then its value won't equal the cost of investment. If the government instead decides to charge reasonable wholesale fees, the cashflows earned by NBN will not justify a value remotely near $43bn. Even if most households sign up, the NBN may be worth less than a quarter of that investment.

The trouble with the NBN is that it has been decreed by politicians, not driven by market demands.The fastest networks of today run over optical fibre and there are already many thousands of kilometres of fibre in our networks. The question is whether the huge extra cost of mandating every home in Australia be connected to fibre-optic cable is justified. Millions of Australians can already achieve fast broadband speeds over networks currently in place, and we know today's speeds will increase rapidly in coming years.

Consumer preferences often turn out to be very different from what politicians, engineers and bureaucrats anticipate. The reality is that broadband involves horses for courses: some consumers and businesses want fibre optic now; others will be fine with cheaper alternatives such as hybrid fibre-coaxial (which can already deliver 100 megabits per second) or very high speed ADSL; yet others will prefer wireless. Only bureaucrats think in terms of one size fits all.

And don't forget, Canberra is terrible at building and operating commercial services. Perhaps the most unbelievable aspect of the NBN is that a government-controlled entity can roll out a vast undertaking such as national fibre-to-the-home on budget and on schedule. This from the people who couldn't build school assembly halls without billions in rorts? Who tragically mismanaged the home insulation program? Who put less than half the computers promised in schools at double the cost?

For the past 30 years there has been a realisation that governments are better off leaving it to the private sector to run businesses. That is why Telstra (and its peers abroad such as British Telecom) were privatised in the first place.

In addition, Canberra will have a huge conflict of interest. A remarkable part of Labor's broadband fantasy is the idea that the government can even-handedly pursue the national interest when it is both owner of the monopoly broadband network and regulator of Australia's communications market.

Let's say the NBN turns out to be the dud that most business observers expect and that five years down the track an alternative emerges providing adequate service at a lesser cost; say a variant of wireless. Will the government surrender its monopoly, rendering its investment worthless? Or will it enforce laws barring households and businesses from using a cheaper and perfectly adequate substitute technology?

If you don't think this Labor government would do that, you are wrong. Its heads of agreement with Telstra requires Telstra not to offer cheaper HFC broadband of 100Mbps because it would compete with the NBN. Good for the NBN monopoly, perhaps, but terrible for consumers.

Last, money spent on the NBN can't be spent on other services. In economics, one of the most important concepts is "opportunity cost", the idea that once you spend your money on one thing, you can't spend it on something else. If tens of billions of taxpayer dollars are invested in this low-yielding yet risky venture they can't be spent on better hospitals, schools, roads or public transit. There is no benefit to taxpayers or the Australian economy from spending $43bn or more if the NBN is worth a fraction of that when sold. Such risk is better borne by the private sector so shareholders, not taxpayers, lose out if the plan goes off the rails.

Clever governments understand that you fix problems by empowering initiative and enterprise, by creating an environment where the ingenuity and flexibility of the market is best able to deliver the cheapest and most effective solutions."END QUOTE

Mike to Dad,
He is spot-on!

17 August, 2010

Murray Darling Basin

On Sunday 15th August I sent the following letter to the Sydney Morning Herald.
"Senator Wong's response ( Phantom Water SMH 14th August) to Debra Jopson's expose on phantom water (SMH 12th August) clearly demonstrates how the Senator and her extreme green advisers just don't "get it". The "lack of water flowing down the rivers of the Murray Darling Basin" is not caused by "decades of mis-management and over-allocation". It is caused by the lack of inflows to which the Senator refers. Let me try to explain.

Australia's rivers are highly variable and water is dynamic, it either runs away to the sea or it evaporates. We deal with the variability by building storages and having seasonal allocations for irrigation. When there is no or very limited water, there are no allocations. Having some water in the headwater storages, with minimal allocations for irrigation, allowed the Murray River to be kept flowing through this drought of record low rainfall and run-off into the river and dams.

Buying back an irrigation license/entitlement when there is no allocation generates no water. It will "generate" extra water (leave it in the river) when there is a good flow or flood and there would have been an allocation, but that is not when our rivers most need it and that will limit agricultural production for negligible environmental benefit.

By way of example, the first major water buy-back by this Government was the purchase of Toorale Station, Bourke in 2008 for $23.75m. There has been additional water in the Darling River as a consequence of this purchase during the big flows earlier this year. This additional water amounted to less than 1% of the flow past Bourke! Of the flow past Bourke that reached either the Menindee Lakes Storage or the Lower Lakes Storage at the mouth of the Murray, at least 50% will evaporate.

Engineering changes to reduce evaporation of fresh water in these storages could make a meaningful impact. All we have seen so far is political action pandering to misconceptions which will do little for the environment but have a long term negative impact on our ability to produce agricultural products for a hungry world."

14 August, 2010

Irrigation-Politics and Sovereign Risk

I was recently asked to write an overview of the politics of Australian irrigation with emphasis on the Barwon-Darling River. This is what I wrote:-

Big Picture-Background
Australia is claimed to be the most urbanised country on earth with the great majority of the population clustered in coastal cities. The very strong democracy, highly visible in a pre-election environment, appropriately has the voting power where the people are. Thus, the people with the electoral power are geographically separated from rural activities and generally have little knowledge of agriculture.
Furthermore, Australian urban voters have been strongly influenced by environmental advocates who are given significant exposure by the media. The “virtuous greens” are a significant market segment in our cities and like to feel they are playing their part in “saving the planet”.
There is a widely held perception that our inland rivers, from which irrigation water is extracted, have been “over allocated and mismanaged” by previous authorities, who did not have the benefit of today’s environmentally enlightened incumbents. This is mostly nonsense, but I believe it is a widely held belief.
Australia’s rainfall and thus river flows, is highly variable and thus it makes good sense to conserve water in efficient dams when flows are big. This can be for later use and/or flood mitigation. Usage by irrigators is controlled by variable allocations within each water year. An irrigation license/entitlement allows water to be extracted from the river only when defined conditions are met and allocations are made. When flows are low or non-existent, allocations are likewise low or absent. Irrigators understand this and knowingly accept the risks involved.
The drought of recent years has seen the run-off into our major state owned dams at the lowest level since white settlement and this has still not been corrected. This fact if by far the most significant cause of low river flows. Yet the belief that our rivers have been “over allocated and mismanaged” has seen Governments (mainly Federal) attempting to correct the situation by the purchase and effective cancellation of irrigation licenses. This will do nothing for our rivers when flows (and thus allocations) are low and will only constrain production when water supplies are plentiful. But, that does not appear to be understood.
Most of the focus has been on the Murray Darling Basin which covers Victoria north and west of the Great Dividing Range (GDR), all of NSW west of the GDR, and the southern half of Queensland west of the GDR until the Lake Eyre catchment in the far west of that state. This area includes some of Australia’s very best country (soils and rainfall) and some 80% of its irrigation. After the Murray and Darling Rivers join in south western NSW the river flows west in to South Australia before turning south and flowing in to Lakes Alexandrina and Albert (the Lower Lakes) from where it originally flowed in to the Southern Ocean. However in the 1930’s, the South Australians built a series of weirs (“The Barrages”) just above the ocean entrance to convert the Lower Lakes from their natural state of being sometimes salty and sometimes fresh, depending on river flows, into a state whereby they always contain fresh water and the sea is obstructed from entering. The Lakes are wide and shallow and evaporation losses of fresh water are huge.
South Australia is the driest state in the second driest continent on earth, (Antarctica is the driest), and the Murray River is the only decent river in the state. South Australians adopt a “victims attitude” and children are taught in primary school what a poor deal the state gets with upstream irrigators, in particular, extracting water that is “rightfully theirs”. The inefficiencies of water use, particularly the evaporation losses from the Lower Lakes are taboo subjects, rarely mentioned.
It would seem, perhaps by accident, that South Australians hold most of the key posts in the Commonwealth Government involved in the management of water. Senator Penny Wong the Minister for Water and Climate Change is a Senator for South Australia. Senator Nick Xenaphon is also a South Australian Senator and came to Canberra with one of his key objectives being to “save the Murray”. The new CEO of the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is a former South Australian water bureaucrat. Professor Mike Young, probably Australia’s best known water scientist and a prominent member of the philosophically “dark green” Wentworth Group of “concerned scientists”, is Adelaide based and will not publically acknowledge the problem of “The Barrages”.
Against this backdrop, the Federal government has passed legislation to give it greater control over management of the Murray Darling Basin and the Murray Darling Basin Authority has been charged with writing a management plan for the Basin which in terms of the Water Act 2007 gives very much more weight to environmental issues than it does to socio-economic issues. The Productivity Commission has recommended that the Act be amended to correct this, but there would appear to be little public support for such a move. Irrigators are very concerned that the MDBA plan will recommend significant reductions in entitlements for irrigation.
Today it was announced that release of the MDBA Plan will be delayed until after the election. A change in Government would probably see greater sympathy for the irrigator’s position and certainly the junior member of the Coalition, The Nationals have a better understanding of the situation than do the Labor Party representatives.

NSW and the Cap
In the mid 1990’s the Australian States agreed that a cap should be placed on further irrigation development and extractions in the Murray Darling Basin. The agreement broadly was that extractions should be capped at the 1994 level, based on water that would be extracted, under the then management regimes to service the level of development which then existed. This “cap” was progressively implemented river by river with the exception of the Mungindi-Menindee reach of the unregulated (meaning no physical regulation by way of a major dam) Barwon Darling. The Barwon Darling cap implementation was complicated and delayed by the highly variable nature of river flows, a lack of reliable historical information and a very strong lobby by local irrigators.
In 2006 a deal was struck between the Government and Barwon Darling irrigators to apply the cap at an interim level of 173GL (173,000ML). This compared with the total entitlement of 517 GL-a cut of 67%. The 517 GL was the aggregate of all licenses including “sleepers” and the total amount had never been used. Usage was more in the area of 250GL. The interim figure was based on a computer model of the river in which the irrigators had little confidence. The model was to be reviewed by a representative “working group” and many thought the correct figure would be more like 240GL, once metering errors and the like were corrected. A particularly strong argument was that the area of cotton grown in 1994 could certainly not have been grown with only 173GL. The agreement had some attractive features including introduction of carry-over water in years when extractions were below individual irrigators share of the 173GL’s and the introduction of an initialisation amount credited to individual irrigators water accounts.
This working group had one or two meetings, but never completed its work. Then out of the blue, earlier this year, the Barwon Darling (Mungindi/Menindee) irrigators received from the NSW Office of Water a convoluted letter advising that the 173GL figure was to be reduced to 143GL’s (a further 17% cut) on the basis that the Murray Darling Basin Authority supported by the Independent Audit Group, claimed that the Darling River was continually exceeding cap. Cap was defined not as the simple 173GL number, but yet another modelled figure which apparently took account of river heights and calculated a different cap figure. This was news to the signatories to the agreement with the Government who without exception believed that the cap figure (interim) was simply the 173 GL’s against which actual metered extractions would be compared.
The NSW Government appeared to accept the irrigator’s argument and the point that if they had a problem with the MDBA/Ministerial Council they needed to deal with it in the context that they were bound by their agreement with the Barwon Darling irrigators. The government has now deferred the matter for twelve months mainly to monitor what happens in 2010 when river flows have been so much greater. In legal terms the Government has great power and any legal action by the irrigators would be unlikely to be successful.
There is little public sympathy for the irrigator’s position. Yet:
• Irrigated agriculture contributes approximately 25 per cent of the gross value of Australian agricultural production, 3% of GDP, 22% of exports, but only uses 0.4 per cent of Australia’s farming area (Source: CSIRO, 2006)
• Australia utilises about 8% of its available water for industry, agriculture and support of the population, with agriculture using about 65% of this, or less than 6% of Australia’s water (Source: National Land and Water Audit 1997 – 2002)
• In their ‘natural’ state, the rivers located in the southern half of Australia experience more variable flows than virtually any other rivers in the world (Murray-Darling Basin Commission 2005)
• Between 1885 and 1960, the Darling River stopped flowing at Menindee on 48 occasions – well before irrigation existed on the river or its tributaries (Australian Farm Institute).

On the local scene Mungindi/Menindee extractions average only about 6% of flows past Bourke. The final cap figure, be it 143GL or 250GL, compares with an annual average flow past Bourke of 2,500 GL’s, with extractions only allowed from the bigger flows. This would seem a small environmental price to pay for all of the socio-economic benefits derived, particularly to a series of disadvantaged towns along the river whose populations include a large proportion of indigenous Australians.
It should also be noted that water flowing past Bourke is usually stored downstream in the Menindee Lakes. A series of natural lakes engineered to form a highly inefficient water storage, where normally half the water diverted is lost to evaporation.
To my mind, the irrigator’s argument has “right” on its side, particularly if it is accepted that Australia has a moral responsibility to sustainably maximise its agricultural production. I remain sufficiently naive to believe that in the long run “right” will prevail.
David Boyd

13 August, 2010

Waste of Good Water

Letter published in The Australian on Friday 13th August,2010

"In a world worrying about food security, would someone please explain to me why both our main political parties and the Greens want to send fresh water downstream to Australia's most inefficient water storage-the Lower Lakes- where most of it will evaporate, rather than removing The Barrages at the mouth of the Murray River and returning the Lakes to the natural estuary they once were?

David Boyd,St Ives, NSW"

12 August, 2010

Murray Darling Basin

Both of our competing political leaders are pandering to the Murray mouth fresh water alarmists. Alan Jones with over 1m. listeners to Radio 2GB in Sydney, has been talking about the nonsense of the Government buying non-existent water, that is entitlements when there are no allocations. In an attempt to help him get words around the two key issues I sent him the following email. Pretty patronising of me to try to help one of the very best communicators around, but it is not easy to clearly express.

Dear Alan,
You may recall from our meetings at Bourke (Port of Bourke Hotel and all that), when I was Chairman and CEO of Clyde Agriculture; that I have a passionate interest in getting the truth into the public arena about our rivers and irrigation. It is a big communication challenge and I struggle to get the words right. However, perhaps my latest iteration might help.

There are two issues which 'get at me'.

First, we deal with the massive variability of our rivers by granting irrigation licenses/entitlements, that are subject to seasonal allocations. No, or limited, water, no allocations. Thus, the Government buying licenses, when there is minimal water and thus no allocations, will do nothing for our rivers, but will restrict agricultural production when water supplies are ample.

Second, the issue of "The Barrages" that close the Lower Lakes off from the Southern Ocean while they evaporate their heads off. I can do little better than quote from the website of a Goolwa (SA) based organisation LakesNeedWater-

"Since we started LakesNeedWater over one year ago, our core message has consistently been that the Lower Lakes should have, well, water. This is hardly rocket science after all. Why anyone would believe that holding back seawater and allowing the lakes to dry out is preferable to allowing seawater to mix with freshwater defies logic. Among the great rivers of the world, such as the Nile, the Amazon, the Yangtze, and the Mississippi, the River Murray is alone in being cut off from its mouth. Does anyone honestly believe it is healthy for a river to be separated from the ocean by kilometres of barrages, resulting in the loss of 90% of its historic estuary?

The scaremongers have it all wrong with their single-minded obsession with fresh water in the Lower Lakes. The River Murray needs a healthy estuary, not artificially maintained freshwater lakes. Rivers need estuaries. It really is that simple."

I hope this helps. Keep up the good work.Regards,

David Boyd

08 August, 2010

ABC TV Coverage of the Lower Lakes Without a Single Mention of the Scandal of "The Barrages". ABC News,7:30 Report,and now Landline.

I am not into conspiracy theories, but sometimes I wonder! The biggest problem of the Lower Lakes is not upstream extractions (with minimal allocations there have been bugger all in recent years anyway); but the downstream blocking of seawater entering the Lakes as it always did when river flows were low, before The Barrages were built. For further background see lakesneedwater.org

You wont get a S.A. funded scientist to publically criticise them, for fear of their funding drying up!

10 July, 2010

Water Storages and Efficiency

The South Australian based organisation "LakesNeedWater" have a clearly expressed introduction on their website which bears repeating:


Since we started LakesNeedWater over one year ago, our core message has consistently been that the Lower Lakes should have, well, water. This is hardly rocket science after all. Why anyone would believe that holding back seawater and allowing the lakes to dry out is preferable to allowing seawater to mix with freshwater defies logic. Among the great rivers of the world, such as the Nile, the Amazon, the Yangtze, and the Mississippi, the River Murray is alone in being cut off from its mouth. Does anyone honestly believe it is healthy for a river to be separated from the ocean by kilometres of barrages, resulting in the loss of 90% of its historic estuary?

The scaremongers have it all wrong with their single-minded obsession with fresh water in the Lower Lakes. The River Murray needs a healthy estuary, not artificially maintained freshwater lakes. Rivers need estuaries. It really is that simple."

06 July, 2010


I was recently pondering my obsessive interest in water and had a BGO (Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious)!
>Some 70% of the Earth's surface is covered by the oceans i.e. salt water.
>Nature provides us with the most wonderful re-cycling system whereby warmth over our oceans causes evaporation and cloud formation, winds moves the cloud around and as it cools (condensation) it falls as beautiful fresh water.
>There is no shortage of total water, but there are often shortages of fresh water.
>From earliest days, man has stored fresh water to deal with these shortages. We don't lie in the rain with our mouths open to meet our drinking needs-rather we store fresh water when it is available to cover for our future drinking needs.
>Storage methods for our drinking and washing requirements need to be "efficient". That mostly means avoiding evaporation. There is plenty of salt water in the oceans to meet cloud formation needs.
>Exactly these same principles apply to storing water for irrigation (food and fibre production)needs. Only the scale is different. We need to store and to store "efficiently".
>This is particularly the case in Australia where we have the most variable rainfall on Earth. Our predecessors did a great job in building water storages-dams.
>We need more, but they need to be deep (valleys)to minimise surface area and thus evaporation and have good catchments.
>Storages also need to be flexible so as to allow flows from smaller events to pass and to take "the top" off the bigger events, both for flood mitigation and storage for future needs.

Climate Change-Famous Forecasts that Failed.

In 1969, Richard Nixon’s presidential advisor, Daniel Moynihan, summarised for the President the general concern of scientists about “the carbon dioxide problem". This report was recently released.
Moynihan’s memo reads, in part:
“It is now pretty clearly agreed that the CO2 content in the atmosphere will rise 25% by 2000. This could increase the average temperature near the earth's surface by 7 degrees Fahrenheit. This in turn could raise the level of the sea by 10 feet. Goodbye New York. Goodbye Washington, for that matter.”

These predictions were wide of the mark:

•Rather than increasing by 81 parts per million as the "pretty clearly agreed" experts feared, CO2 rose by only 45 parts per million.

•Rather than spiking by 3.9 C (7 degrees F), the actual temperature increase between 1969 and the year 2000 was a practically imperceptible 0.3 C. Which means the experts were off by 1200 percent.

•Most embarrassing of all, rather than rising 305 cm (10 feet), sea level increased by a paltry 10 cm (3.9 inches). Which means the experts overestimated that particular danger by 2950 percent.

Moral of the story: no one has ever been able to predict the future. Not even highly educated, highly regarded government advisors.
See: http://motls.blogspot.com/2010/07/nixon-was-told-sea-level-would-rise-by.html

02 July, 2010

Climate Change

In the last few weeks I have been told by a leading geneticist and a retired physicist/nucleur scientist that there is no credible scientific case against the accepted alarmist global warming view. These two and so many others seem quite oblivious to the revelations from East Anglia, the IPCC and the work and views of the likes of McKittrick, Freeman Dyson, and many other highly educated and intelligent authorities.

In my view the claims of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have been brought into serious disrepute by the revelations of the emails from the Climate Research Institute of the University of East Anglia, the discrediting of Michael Mann's "hockey stick" theory and many other revelations.

In Australia we have even witnessed the Commonwealth Government having a meeting of public servants to train them in dealing with the sceptics views. How misguided, superior and condescending can you get!

I came across the linked paper which has particular relevance to my agricultural interests and expresses in very moderate language the fundamental views of those who question the so called "settled" science.

22 June, 2010

TV Feature on Bourke and the BIG Season of 2010

ABC TV's Landline Programme ran a feature on "Bourke Battlers" on Sunday 30th May. It includes segments (some out of context) of an interview with me.     Here is the link.

28 May, 2010

BlogLog of Our Kimberley By Boat Tour 29th May to 15th June, 2010

Link to photos
Tuesday 15th June
Weather cool and showery again. After some gift shopping we taxied to the airport. Our flight was an hour late due to headwinds for west bound inward flights. Heavy cloud all the way to St Vincent's Gulf. Water bodies were showing up clearly in the setting sun and we got a clear view of the solid body of water in the Murray after its sharp southerly turn in South Australia. I was reminded of the concept of Chris Hammer in his recent book on the Murray-Darling- "The River". He describes the Murray River, blocked off from the sea by The Barrages and fed by the upstream dams and Snowy diversions, as a "closed system". He goes on to say that as our early settlers were so disappointed that they didn't find the anticipated inland sea, they decided to create one!

Kimberley by Boat Tour

Monday 14th June
The first wet morning since we left Sydney 16 days ago. Took a walk up the Hay Street Mall before meeting Marjorie (my long-time Secretary) and Darryl Kelly for a ferry ride across to South Perth for lunch. Tried to find the house where we three Dalgety cadets lived in 1964, but subsequently discovered we were a few blocks short. Google maps shows the house and nearby church still there.

Sunday 13th June
A nice relaxed morning at our very comfortable McAlpine House before our 1:00PM 2.5 hour flight to Perth. Good views of Broome and surrounds on take-off including the Roebuck Plains marine plain country, which from the air looks like an old river delta. Then cloud cover for an hour or so before the skies cleared. All rugged looking country and I was reminded how good the eastern Australian pastoral country is by comparison. From 38,000 feet I only saw three station homesteads until we reached the clearly defined farming country. It is marked by an almost straight east/west line where the pastoral country stops and farming (cultivation) begins. By contrast with the sparcity of homesteads, I was surprised to see perhaps hundreds of mine sites in the pastoral country. I knew, of course, that WA was the mining state, but always imagined it was dominated by a limited number of very large mines, I was surprised at how many smaller mines were visible. Also noted several well developed, sealed, long airstrips. I really should have a better understanding of Australia's premier export industry!

On arrival at The Weld Club we heard what we thought were church bells. Quickly checked the internet and found St.George's Cathedral had a Choral Evensong scheduled to begin in 20 minutes. We spruced ourselves up and walked across the park to attend. Lovely singing and a fine "Address" on my favourite Ecclesiastes. We had an upmarket dinner at a very scruffy McDonalds before retiring early. Could have done without a 1:30AM phone call from Katie!

Saturday 12th June
We were picked up at 8:00AM by the Horizontal Falls people and driven to the airport. Our aircraft was a turbo-prop Cessna Caravan mounted on these huge floats with retractable wheels under the floats. A grotesque looking machine standing some twenty odd feet off the ground. I doubted it would ever get in the air. I volunteered to sit up the front in the co-pilot seat which was quite hard to get in to, but I was delighted and kept it throughout the fascinating trip. The aircraft with twelve passengers lifted off using surprisingly little strip. We flew north up the coast of the Dampier Peninsular at at only 1500 feet, over lovely looking white sandy beaches.We flew over James Price Point where the proposed gas processing plant is to go, and could see the Lacepede Islands in the distance. The pilot spoke glowingly of the successful Aboriginal Community at Lombadina before we landed on a bush strip at Cygnet Bay quite close to Cape Leveque and One Arm Point. We were taken on a tour of the Brown Bros. Pearl Farm and given lengthy explanations of the operation by a very tall, shapely guide;before a soft sell of pearls. In spite of my encouragement Gail again resisted.

We then took off again and flew due east and landed in Talbot Bay. Here we found the Orion with its new lot of passengers inspecting the Horizontal Falls. These "falls" are a feature of the huge 10 metre tides and the existence of two adjoining water bodies which can only be entered through narrow gaps. The tidal movements create a huge surge of water through the gaps as the water tries to equalise. The tide was dropping whilst we were there and the water on the inside, surging to get out appeared about one metre higher that that outside. There were all sorts of whirlpools and eddies on the downward side and entry was clearly very dangerous. Our "driver" went thru' both gaps several times and when on the upward slope of water enjoyed "hovering", I wondered what would happen if he had sudden engine failure! Afterwards I noticed that the boat was powered by two large ourtboards and he assured me that he had dual fuel lines. Sensibly the Orion Zodiacs did not attempt to get through. It was strange to see the familiar guides on the Zodiacs with their new passengers. We had a delicious lunch of baramundi on a house boat that doubled as a pier for the sea planes. The boat was surrounded by small fish with several sharks gorging themselves. One of the guides was sporting three heavily bandaged fingers as a result of a recent encounter with one of the sharks. When it grabbed him ( he was cleaning fish over the side) he had the presence of mind to enter the water with it so that he could get it to release his fingers rather than leaving them in its clamped shut teeth.

We flew back at 5,500 feet, over King Sound and got a great perspective of the area. We could see the Fitzroy River to the south, but could not actually sight Derby. A most interesting day capped by an enjoyable dinner at Matsos with the Farrars.

Friday 11th June
We rented a small vehicle and Alan Farrar accompanied us to Roebuck Plains, about half an hours drive from Broome. Met Station Manager, Doug Miller and was immediately impressed with his open, friendly, competent style. He took us on a drive through some of their best country, which was much better than I expected it to be, particularly what they call the marine plain (200,000 acres) much of which carries a good body of salt resistant couch grass. Roebuck is owned by an arm of the Indigenous Land Corporation. It is just under 900,000 acres and runs 11,000 Brahman breeding cows and some 24,000 head in total. Heifers are joined at a minimum of 280kgs. for eight weeks, but are given a second chance. Heifers get the best country and all cattle are pregnancy tested annually. Branding percentages for heifers are 86% and overall figure is 73%. The property has a staff of 15 permanents and usually has an additional 10 trainees. There is good ground water at around 20/30 metres and there are 38 solar powered sub-bores. Cattle are mostly sold as weaners to the live export market (Indonesias), where Doug says they receive Roma equivalent prices and better. Being so close to a major live cattle shipping port the property is strategically located and can take advantage of cargo completion demand. Whilst we were there they were trucking cows to Harvey south of Perth. A distance of 2,600 kms-costing $120/head. They have a problem with intruders and usually lose around 500 head of cattle per annum as"town killers".

On enquiring where his wife Sara came from, we discovered she was Tony and Jan Austin's daughter from Boggabri who we have met many times and who were very good friends to Gail's brother Barry and his late wife Jenny, when they lived at Boggabri. I never cease to be amazed at the "smallness" of rural Australia.

After a sleep and a swim in the Hotel pool Gail and I walked down to Matso's a boutique brewery come restaurant. Had a delicious sefood bisque and loved their Mango beer.

Thursday 10th June
We disembarked for the final time at 9:00AM and were delivered by bus to the very smart McAlpine House. Built by Lord McAlpine in an old tropical style it is now owned by one of the Paspaley's. We walked in the heat of the day down to the Boulevard Shopping Centre, had some lunch and purchased a "carry-on" bag to better manage our excessive luggage.

Approaching sunset we took a taxi to Cable Beach to watch the sunset. We then attended our final Art Gallery for an opening of new works by Aboriginal Artists before dining with some of the Orion passengers at a great fish restaurant. I am still meeting some of the passengers. Finally, met and chatted to Trevor Kennedy who I found most personable and interesting. He was born in Albany and worked as a journalist before pursuing a business career which included CPH and the Qantas Board. His wife Christina is the aunt of Doug Miller who manages Roebuck Plains cattle station which we are to visit tomorrow.

Wednesday 9th June
Overnight we tied up to the Broome pier. This very long structure is tightly secured and anybody entering or leaving is closely monitored. You are not allowed to walk along it. We attended another Art Gallery (The Bungalow) and some extensive purchases were made. Broome is a city of 15,000 people, but the population swells to over 40,000 at the peak of the tourist season. It has a busy feel about it, but also strikes you as a "frontier western town". A sense enhanced by a generous coating of red dust. I had to remind myself that we were actually in a coastal port.In the afternoon we did an optional Hovercraft tour which apart from being my first ride in a Hovercraft was of little interest. The machine steers like a vehicle with smooth tyres on a very wet slippery claypan. Apart from viewing some mud flats and mangroves we saw some dinosaur foot prints and were amused by a matter-o-fact, very direct young "pilot". Then at 5:00PM we were entertained by the Bardi Aboriginal Dancers from north of Broome. These dancers have travelled widely and were excellent. Gail was captivated. So as not to have too quiet a day we then left the ship to attend a cocktail party and a soft sell of Paspaley Pearls. In spite of my encouragement Gail was not in a mood to buy!

Tuesday 8th June
Weather wise, yet another magnificent day. When I walked out on deck at 6:00AM yesterday I was immediately hit by the warmth and strong smell of smoke. Apparently burning-off was going on to the south. Today the smoke was gone and the water was still a wonderful aqua/green colour.Today was packed with activity. A lecture from Colin Laverty on collecting aboriginal art. Colin and his wife are knowledgeable serious collectors and he is a great communicator. Clear, to the point and brief!

We are anchored off the The Lacepedes-four small, sandy islands, the home to massive bird life-in particular the Brown Booby. We explored them from the Zodiacs, but did not land.

Mid morning we were invited to a lecture by one of the guides on Climate Change. James Creswell has swallowed the alarmist line hook line and sinker and seemed oblivious to all of the recent dis-crediting of the IPCC and its contributing thermomaniacs. It really was unbalanced and way over the top. The concerning thing was that a large majority of those present agreed with him. It got too much for George Snow, a leading yachtsman (Brindabella) who was at Canberra Grammar School a few years behind me. His brother Michael was a year ahead of me. George took James on and was clearly very well read on the subject. I attempted to support him, but was taken on by those around me! Quite a controversy.

After lunch I had a look at the Bridge and all of the high powered electronics of a modern ship. In the evening we were entertained by the crew which was a little long and not particularly good!

Monday 7th June
Another day packed with interest and beauty. Overnight we headed further down the coast and anchored this morning in Doubtful Bay. We went ashore at Raft Point in the now very familiar manner and climbed up to a rock ledge which houses an aboriginal art gallery-wandjinas and bradshaws.

The ship then sailed closer to Montgomery Reef which is only exposed at lower tides. We inspected this from the Zodiacs. It was not my concept of a narrow reef, but a huge expanse of coral from which water (salt) was still cascading with the water at of just above the low tide level. Spring tides here have a 10 metre range, so our ship could sail right over it at high tides. The daily changes (tides) from wet to dry, encourage all sorts of wildlife as fish are trapped and birds have a field day. We travelled up a “river” within the coral in some very still (stagnant) water. We saw lots of large turtles in the water, and on the way back to the ship a large sea snake. Once again a nice little surprise when not altogether accidently we came across a tiny sand island with an Orion Flag and staff offering refreshments!

Then at sunset we again boarded the Zodiacs after the ship had repositioned itself near a place called Lanngi which is said to have great spiritual importance to the aboriginals. We entered a rock lined cove which at its point had a small waterfall.

Sunday 6th June
Overnight we sailed further south west and are now anchored in Prince Frederick Harbour. A glance out the cabin window reveals sharply rising hills and some cliff faces and on the nearest island an area of rain forest.

What a great day! After breakfast we attended a lecture by two archaeologists who were doing a “dig” not far from Mitchell Falls. These two were flown in by one of the several helicopters that we were about to use. A most interesting lecture on Kimberley art, from an archaeologist’s viewpoint. We were then ferried to the nearby beach on Naturalist Island where we boarded a helicopter for Mitchell Falls. This bay is quite spectacularly beautiful with the water a lovely aqua green. On the helicopter trip we flew over the Mitchell Plateau at about 2,500 feet, had a great view of the falls from the air, before we landed and viewed them, after a short walk, from ground level. I had a swim in the Mitchell River above the falls where the water was fresh, but not excessively cold. Lovely views of the bay again before we landed back on the beach just across from where the Orion was anchored.

After lunch we headed off up the Hunter River on the Zodiacs in search of wildlife and to view the area from the water. Saw occupied Osprey nests, dolphins and finally a moderate size salt water crocodile. So far my impression is that birdlife is relatively scarce on the Kimberley coast. The scenery, particularly the red cliffs arising straight out of the water, was spectacular in the afternoon sun. The rain forest of which there is quite a lot in this area, is the result, not so much of the rainfall, but the presence of basalt soil. This would have to be my favourite spot on the Kimberley coast-so far.

Saturday 5th June
We are now anchored off Bigge Island on the north-west corner of the Kimberley Peninsular. We had a very choppy spray filled visit to the island in the Zodiacs to view some Wandjina rock art. Wandjina is a spirit god according to local aboriginal tradition. No photographs were allowed. A very geologically interesting island, with tides of around six metres. Great rock patterns and colours particularly from tide effects. A trip thru’ the rocks in an inland passage was a highlight.

Lots of different rock shapes with, to my imagination, overtones of Easter Island.

After lunch on board we attended a lecture by Professor Howard Morphy (husband of Frances) on Kimberley Rock Art. Morphy gains great credibility with me, because unlike our young, cocksure Orion guides, he readily admits uncertainty and ignorance where it exists. The dark theatre combined with the engine drone created soporific conditions and highlighted how tired this elderly collection of passengers have become. Whilst I was still awake, I glanced around and estimated that 33% of the “students” were asleep!

A little before sunset we again journeyed to another beach on Bigge Island, of great natural beauty, for the deferred “Captain’s Cocktails”. The “Pacific Princess” joined us in the bay, but moored out of sight so as not to spoil our feeling that we were the only people here? We had a lovely trip back to the Orion in fast fading light.

Friday 4th June
Overnight we sailed further west at the top of the Kimberley Peninsular and at 7:00AM anchored in Vansittart Bay. The red cliffs along the shoreline have largely disappeared and we look on to a much flatter landscape.

We attended a most interesting lecture by Frances Morphy on Kimberley Aboriginal languages. It was not without criticism of our bus drivers at Wyndham for referring to cattle men “taking up” pastoral leases. Frances saw this as a denial of the facts which she says, were that the land was “invaded” and the original landholders dispossessed and often killed! Subsequently, she referred to recent activity where Indigenous people were “taking up” pastoral leases and she lauded their ability to run them! Whilst the lecture was culturally most interesting as was the encapsulated “basis of languages”, as usual it set me thinking about how we improve the self-respect and living standards of aboriginal and part aboriginal people. I remain convinced that education and employment opportunities in economically sustainable businesses, is central to progress. Alcohol remains a major problem. The encouragement by the Whitlam Government to maintain “hunter gatherer” life styles has clearly been a disaster.

After lunch our group (titled the Grevillias-50% of passengers) took the Zodiacs across to Jar Island-so named because of the discovery of Indonesian jars on the island-to view quite a lot of so called Bradshaw art.

Thursday 3rd June
Awoke around 6:00AM and decided there was an urgent need to burn some calories! Met friends Allan Farrar and John Reynolds doing the same thing. John led me on his route march around the ship which included some deck changes via stairs. As we walked we noticed the ship bearing towards the land on our left (south-west). As we had breakfast we dropped anchor in the cove downstream of the King George waterfalls, near the northern extremity of the Kimberley Peninsular.

We “squibbed” the five hour trip on the Zodiacs (rubber duckies) which included a climb to the top of the falls, after dire warnings of how challenging the walk would be and settled for a ride on the tender up the cove to the foot of the falls. Spectacular scenery with steep red cliffs rising straight from the water. Words such as “grandeur”, “majestic”, even “awesome”, come to mind. A lovely feeling of remoteness and isolation, even if we did come across a Marine Research vessel anchored nearby and a yacht coming down the sound as we went up. It was further up the cove/sound to the falls than I imagined, but it was worth the trip. The climb for the walkers didn’t appear nearly as “challenging” as we had been told and we probably should have done it.

Near the foot of the falls we were plied with a glass of champagne (I drank Gail’s as well), before we headed back down the sound. Towards the open sea we had some excitement, as without warning the diesel motor stopped. We drifted quite some distance downstream, fortunately remaining in the middle of the sound, as futile efforts to re-start the motor were made. Two-way contact was made with the Orion. Firstly, the large Orion fishing boat got a rope to us as we came uncomfortably close to the rocks and held us in the protected waters until another tender arrived to which we fourteen passengers were transferred and returned to the Orion. Wonderful exaggerated stories of shipwreck and gallant rescue ensued. A lovely command from one quiet gentleman as we began the transfer-“abandon ship, men first!”

After lunch we slept deeply-our first real break, until we decided to take a walk around the deck to view the setting sunlight on the red cliffs. We ran in to Judy Watson’s art class which we managed to persuade Gail to join. She did some lovely water colours of the surrounding scenery.

Wednesday 2nd June
After some late re-arrangements mainly thanks to Sandra Forbes (Allan Farrar's wife), we were able to fly to the Bungle Bungles AND visit the Warmun Art Centre. What we did not know until we took off, nearly an hour later than expected, was that we were also to fly over  Lake Argyle and the Argyle Diamond Mine-a wonderful unexpected bonus. This would have to be one of the most interesting flights I've ever been on and to add to my pleasure (and view) I managed to get myself up front in the (unoccupied) co-pilots seat of the Airvan-an aircraft built in Morwell,Victoria.

The Kimberley country from the air is much as I expected. Red-brown hills with many rugged peaks and somehow to my mind looks the great age that it is. The Ord Dam is a surprisingly small structure when you consider the volume of water it stores. Obviously a perfect sight for a dam. Capacity is stated at over 10,000 megalitres which is twice the biggest (Eucumbene) in the south of Australia and its always nearly full. The literature says that under flood conditions it can hold three times this much? It is not so much the annual average rainfall received (32 inches), but the fact that it is concentrated over four to five months (the Wet).
The irrigation area is relatively small at14,000 green hectares. When the long discussed Stage 2, which is now underway, is completed it will still total less than 40,000 green hectares. Major crops are sandlewood, mangoes, chia, melons, grapefruit. Some is exported, but none from Wyndham it mostly goes via Perth.
Argyle Lake is a massive expanse of what appears to be mainly deep water and I hope my photos do it justice. The Argyle Mine is massive with half a mountain cut into. The Bungle Bungles are truly extraordinary, as is the fact that they really only came upon the Australian consciousness in the early 1980's. I wont try to describe them, but let our photos do the talking. We landed at Turkey Creek to view the Warmun Aboriginal Art Centre, which in contrast to Kununurra, was very well presented in a Closed Aboriginal Community. No access without permission, no alcohol, no photographs without permission (which was readily given). I don't feel adequate to comment on the art, but I am gradually developing an "eye". We were again presented with some traditional dancing preceded by a smoking ceremony-we had to walk thru' some eucalypt smoke, which was clean and refreshing and reminded me of how the Sydney North Shore used to be when we were all burning-off on a Sunday afternoon, before the Greenies took over!

We then had an interesting drive back to the moored ship on the Wyndham jetty, which took a bit over two hours. I appreciated the opportunity to see the country we had mostly flown over, from the ground.

Tuesday 1st June
Nice gentle rocking to sleep with a comforting engine drone in the background. Beautiful warm mild weather with a good weather forecast for the "Expedition", not allowed to call it a cruise! The water was a lovely clear aqua colour as we left Darwin. Now that we are well in to Joseph Bonaparte (otherwise known as "blown apart") Gulf the water is muddy and this got even browner as we entered the narrower Cambridge Gulf with all the rivers flowing into it.

We received yet another unnecessarily long briefing from the Chief Guide who confused everyone with too much information. After lunch and tying up at the Wyndham Jetty we were bussed to Kununurra via Wyndham township to visit the Warringarri Art Centre on the edge of town. This was poorly presented in terms of facilities and tidiness, but at the end of the day we witnessed a very authentic dance/corroboree performance. Most interesting with great rythum. Gail was entranced. Wingham is a battling little town of 800 people 70% indigenous. Kununurra, 120 kilometers south, is new and fresh and now has 8,000 people. Major industries are the irrigation and the Argyle Diamond mine.

Then back to the ship for a shower and late dinner. Very good dinner companions for the second night in a row in the form of Peter, a Macquarie Street dentist and his Canadian wife, Jan. Peter is obviously a very keen photographer with great equipment. Suggested he put his photos on a web album for us all to enjoy!

Monday 31st May
An early morning walk along the waterfront revealed the Orion coming in. Took many photos hoping I had the right boat, which proved correct. The local ABC Radio are quite categoric that the wet season ended and the dry season began last night, with the arrival of a gentle southerly wind. The change is about a month late.
As scheduled we met the rest of the NSW Art Gallery group at yet another Gallery. Some very substantial purchases were made (by others). We then toured the Supreme Court art collection before taking our by now familiar bus to the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT and then on to Charles Darwin University to see the indigenous exhibits and they provided a sandwich lunch. They also have a graphic printing business which we visited. At each of these venues we were given most interesting talks by enthusiastic, knowledgeable experts. A feature was the blending of the old and the contemporary in modern indigenous art. There were no extravagant claims or long standing cultural heritage although there certainly is a heritage of artistic work in a whole variety of forms in Aboriginal societies.

We did a lengthy bus run to collect luggage from endless hotels enroute to the wharf. First impressions on board, very favourable. Well presented relatively roomy cabin. Too many safety drills and a talkative chief guide who clearly likes the sound of his own voice. The Group are relating well and prospects look good. Sailed on schedule at 5:30PM and great views of Darwin in the setting sun, from the water. Also photographed a great sunset as we sailed off in to it. Dinner in the sumptuous large dining room was excellent.

We set off on this long-planned trip by flying to Darwin tomorrow. Neither Gail nor I have ever been there. After working in four different states (Queensland, NSW, SA and WA), and having had national responsibility for the Dalgety branch network throughout Australia when I visited every single branch (bar one), and having had the opportunity to see much of the world; it strikes me as odd that I have never been to Darwin or the Kimberleys. However, that is about to be corrected.

The trip on the Orion has a focus on Aboriginal art, being sponsored by the Art Gallery of NSW. I have to admit having little interest in Aboriginal Art and a certain scepticism about the true heritage history all those dots.Namatjira did't paint like that. I wonder if that view will change as I become better informed?

Saturday 29th May
Awoke to discover that The Australian newspaper had finally run one of my letters with which I have been bombarding them, about the scandal of the Lower Lakes.

Cool and wet as we left Boyd Cottage in the capable hands of Ernst and Valda as we headed for the airport.
Cloud cover and some turbulence as we headed north-west. Very frustrating as we flew over the familiar western NSW country and couldn't see a thing. Thought I spotted the Cobar/Bourke road divide through the clouds just out of Nyngan, but didn't see the ground again until around Hungerford when it cleared. From then on we got great views. First of the distant Bulloo Overflow water way out to the west. We were on the wrong side of the aircraft to see Thylungra and Windorah, but got a great view of the Cooper Channels then Lake Yamma Yamma near Haddon Corner (cnr. of SA). You could actually see the green grass in the channels from 30,000 feet and I was reminded of someone saying to me recently that if it looks good from the air (he was talking about 3,000 feet) it is fabulous on the ground! After flying over Farrar's Creek we crossed the Diamentina where the channels (flood plain) were wider than the Cooper. We went right over the top of what I think was Monkira Station and saw lots of the Georgina Channels. This country is having a wonderful season and there is still water running in the main water course channels, but most of the flood water has receded leaving prolific growth and lots of full lakes. It really hits you just what enormous areas of land I am talking about and the distances. The Lake Eyre catchment runs right up to around Mt Isa and it makes you wonder why it doesn't get more water, until you think about how much dissipates in the flood runners and lakes; something the South Australians don't seem to understand in respect to those Queensland rains which theoretically run in to the Darling.

We flew along what I took to be the eastern side of the Barkly Tableland where I was surprised to see areas that had been flooded and which I took to be carrying a big body of feed. I must have a look at all this country on the ground before too long. We then ran into tropical like poor quality timber country as we passed Katherine and then the inevitable cumulus tropical clouds as we descended into Darwin. VERY humid and hot followed by a heavy downpour soon after we arrived. The "Mantra on the Esplanade", as the name suggests, looks out over a green park to the water-approaches to the harbour. Somewhat surprisingly it actually faces south as the Darwin CBD is on a peninsular which curls to the south.
The city is fresh and new, having been largely rebuilt following Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve 1974. At that time the population was only 48,000 people and all but 11,000 were evacuated to southern capitals prior to the rebuilding. Population has since grown to 120,000-still relatively small.
We went for a walk along the waterfront between showers and returned to the Mantra for an early dinner.

Sunday 30th May
After a too large breakfast we went looking for a Church and fortunately (?providentially) found the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral where the service was only ten minutes old-so we joined. Quite high church and we felt very much at home. The Cathedral a modern structure, was built after Cyclone Tracy amidst the gardens with much use of glass to bring the outside in. Only one arch of the old Church remains.
Met a guy who had been at Kings School with my Godfather's son John when I was jackerooing with my Godfather at Talwood. The Dean was the grandson of a former Bishop of Adelaide, but not the one who built the Etonia (a la Eton College) a boat which still plies the Murray and which I was able to locate for Adrian Swire.

We walked back past the Supreme Court,Government House, Parliament House and along the waterfront. These are all bright, relatively new buildings set in much greenery. It helps to have a fresh start-post Cyclone Tracy.We took the round trip on a tourist shuttle to visit the main sights of Darwin and precisely at the appointed hour we were picked up by the NSW Art Gallery organised bus to visit a private graphic printing business which works with indigenous artists across northern Australia to produce print editions of their work. I was particularly interested in firstly, how much the art work reflected true heritage and second what positive impact the enterprise has on building economic sustainability for the artists and their communities. The general impression in respect to the latter was not huge, but "every little bit helps".

We subsequently visited a number of Art Galleries where some of our number made purchases. Gail and I gave the market visit a miss and had a relatively early night after very slow service in the hotel dining area.