Monday, 28 September 2009

Questions and Answers with Rob Hulls, Attorney-General, Victoria

Further to my previous post here, this is the follow up.

Here is the question I asked Rob Hulls with his reply on the Live Q&A.

[Comment From Miss Eagle]
Rob, I am concerned about water trading and the way such a precious resource has now become a casino leading to haves and have nots. I understand it came about because of a COAG decision. How can we legally get out of this mess whereby we unbundled land from water and get land and water connected again?
  • 2:48
Rob Hulls:  Water unbundling is an important reform that has given irrigators more options to manage their way through the drought, whether by supplementing low allocations, by buying more water, or selling water they don't need, or for cash flow. The drought impacts on individual irrigators would be much more severe if they did not have this flexibility.

Now I thought this was a bit ho-hum to say the least.  The response displayed no depth of understanding of the issue and was a fob-off in tune with the party line.  Here is what some others thought.

That great Networker and Landscaper Ed said:

It's Victorian government spin again.  The purpose of unbundling water from land is to create a new economy, using our commonly owned water for their and corporate profits.  It does not solve the real issues facing farmers, who (especially the small farm enterprisers) are price takers and not price makers.

Mr Hulls' spin rides right over the issues that have put farmers in this position - He does not acknowledge
Overallocation of water by the States and especially by Victoria, much of which still is held as sleeper licences still able to be activated.

The disconnection between people who own water rights without owning or managing land, which necessarily leads to further misuse of water and water rights.

The environmental devastation which is occurring now, land and water unbundling occurs, leading away from stewardship of our natural resources.

  • Failure of Victorian government to initiate and continue upgrading of infrastructure which it was their charter to do under the Water Act since that infrastructure was created.
  • Failure by Victorian government to respond in kind and in concert with the enormous advances farmers made in response to successive industry restructures in farm enterprises dependent on irrigation water.
  • Failure by Victorian government to complement their research organisations, which had farmers striding forward with irrigation efficiency advances, so that their irrigation efficiency is just about at peak levels for the kinds of irrigation they carry out.
  • Failure of the Victorian government to do the right thing by farmers and help pay for the next stage of irrigation water use efficiency, which is to lay drip line ($20,000/ha) under pasture and many other forms of agricultural production.
  • Failure of the Victorian government to sufficiently insist on changing inefficient irrigation land use to the most efficient protein producing enterprises for irrigation. - The kind of land use most suitable and efficient depends on a range of conditions, such as soil type, water table levels, markets and so on.
  • Failure of the Victorian government to do its due diligence on the level and cost/benefit of the irrigation infrastructure upgrades that they have started (only 1% or so of which is completed).
  • Failure of the Victorian government to have independent auditing done of both financial and water efficiency targets and achievements.
  • Failure of the Victorian government to honor its commitments to restoring the Snowy River environmental flows.
  • Failure of the Victorian government to honor its responsibility to flush the Murray following the recent blue green algae outbreak.
  • Failure of the Victorian government to do due diligence on the water meter issue, which has now turned to a debacle, at great taxpayer cost, because the new electronic water meters cannot function accurately in dirty water. The new water meters giving readings of water use where there is no water use happening.
  • Failure of the Victorian government to be transparent and proactive in detailing the environment and energy costs of it big projects, e.g. North-South Sugarloaf Pipeline, Bendigo Ballarat superpipe and Waranga basin low level pumping, and water diversions from Lake Nagambie to Waranga Basin.
  • Failure of the Victorian government to even mention or admit that it has another sizeable pipeline recently put in from the Goulburn River at Trawool to take more water out of the Goulburn River to Broadford and Wallan, and thence to the water network which will end with water going all the way to the new suburbs it is creating in the Melbourne and Geelong super metropolis.
  • Failure of the Victorian government to meaningfully recognise that the Goulburn Heritage River system is in such a degraded condition that the extraction of any water out of it for use in coastal cities will kill the future of the river and place a series of nails in the Murray River system.

Ed Adamson
DipAg MEnvSc
Merrijig 3723

And from the indefatigible Maria in Mildura

That is the pat answer they all give when asked about unbundling! The same question was asked at the water information forum in Mildura on Tuesday and the same answer given. 

They do not seem to understand that it is NOT the drought that is the issue - we can deal with drought: it is the fact that the Murray-Darling Basin water system is over-allocated and with every drop being able to be sold, the market that they so praise has caused the over-allocation to be exacerbated. Previously not all water was used and it was left in the river (thought some of it might have been used elsewhere) and sleeper licenses were not an issue. When they put the cap on the MDB they capped it using a wet year as the ill-considered reference point instead of being cautious and calculating in a drought! In fact when they put the cap on the drought was already on its way! (as we now CSIRO has said the drought has been going for 15 years-or it climate change?)

He has also forgotten that with cities and urban areas getting into the market, this prevents and discourages policies and strategies and actions that encourage more environmentally sustainable options being utilized and being adopted. This is short-sighted politically motivated response instead of long-term environmentally sustainable options.

As the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability has stated in his State of the Environment Report 2008 (December and summary attached): “Victoria is living beyond its resource means.” This includes water.

I went to the Victorian Green paper on Climate Change info session Wednesday night and basically it can be boiled down to one main consideration: population growth. Until governments and communities understand that if we don’t curb population growth (keep Australia to 17 million-some professor was talking about this exact problem on radio National this morning) consumption of resources will only increase. How can it not? More people mean that they will demand more resources.

In order to maintain a healthy natural environment we need to limit population growth world-wide as any other action such as cutting greenhouse gases etc is almost impossible if we do not consider that a glass can only be emptied and filled to a certain level before it runs out or over flows.

Those are just SOME of my thoughts.

Again if you don’t have a copy get a copy of ‘Water Resources Law’ by Alex Gardner, Richard Bartlett and Janice Gray (LexisNexis Butterworth 2009) which is fantastic as a resource book and explains it all. It might seems costly but think of the hours of research! Well worth it. I am finding it enlightening!


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