Thursday, 2 December 2010

Baillieu Govt & Water: Walsh is Minister for Water: kids run the lolly shop

There is more than one Peter Walsh in Victoria 
and one of them has become Minister for Water
 in the new Baillieu Liberal/National Coalition Government.

It is actually more boring than that.

Peter Walsh was born and raised at Boort in Northern Victoria, attending Fernihurst Primary School and Boort Secondary College before operating an irrigation and horticultural property in the district.
He has represented the Swan Hill Electorate in the Legislative Assembly since 2002 and is the Deputy Leader of the Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Country Water Resources.
He is also a member of Parliament’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
Peter’s other roles have included -
  • President, Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) – 1998-2002
  • Director, SPC Limited – 1995-2002
  • Board Member, National Farmers Federation (NFF)
  • Member of the Institute of Company Directors.
Peter was awarded a Centenary Medal in 2003 for services to the environment.
(from his website)
Agribusiness and the agricultural lobby now control water policy in Victoria.  They have wrecked the Murray-Darling Basin system and are not talking of budging a millimetre to find solutions.  They criticise urban areas for their water use while unable to take criticism themselves.  

One can guarantee that the state of Victoria will be highly critical of ANYTHING the Murray Darling Basin Authority does or doesn't do or say.  This lobby is out for revenge and self-justification. This could be a good thing. It could be a bad thing. Either way, taxpayers of Victoria get set to see your dollars literally go bush. Here is some of the stuff they want, taken from a document titled The Victorian Liberal Nationals Coalition Plan for Water (see document embedded below).

  • Under the proposed Living Victoria program, the Minister for Water will have the authority to fast track projects which are deemed to meet the criteria for making a significant contribution to Living Victoria by giving them major project status, without compromising transparency and community engagement. (For insight into what is proposed by the Living Victoria program, please go to the document embedded above.) (Page 10)
  • There will be an independent judicial inquiry to investigate the probity of Labor's decision making in the implementation of the Food Bowl project and the north-south pipeline and the social, economic and environmental impacts this project is having on communities throughout Northern Victoria. (Page 14)
  • The Liberal Nationals Coalition does not support the guide to the draft of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.  The guide is not balanced and does not account for the devastating impacts these cuts to water entitlements will have on food producing communities in northern Victoria. (Page 15)
  • While the paragraph following the above says that 'communities are prepared to have a conversation about protecting the health of the Murray-Darling Basin', there are no guarantees that the Liberal National Party Coalition through the National Party's Minister for Water will not join the intransigence of the irrigators' lobby which saw a Nazi-like burning of the guide simply because there was/is a view abroad that the MDBA Guide does not support irrigator ideology which wants only one thing - to amend the Commonwealth Water Act (although my view is that is code for wanting to repeal the existing act and introduce a Water Act which suits themselves).  It should be borne in mind, Networkers, that the Howard Govt introduced the act in 2007 with ALP support.  The Rudd government, in 2008, with the support of the Liberal Opposition made some facilitating amendments. Any legislative setback ensures that the agricultural/development induced mess that is the Murray-Darling Basin will take longer to resolve, if it ever does!
  • Arrangements will be put in place allowing customers to elect 50 per cent of the board members of the four rural water authorities (Lower Murray, Goulburn Murray, Grampians Wimmera Mallee and Southern Rural).  (Page 26)  So one class of persons in selected areas can be elected to water authorities - but in other places, nuh, don't bother.  One of the problems in water in Victoria is  playing off, one against the other, urban and rural interests.  Another is lack of consumer and community input.  All water instrumentalities need to have community representatives elected to water authorities in Victoria  in well-promoted , well-managed elections.

To bring some sanity into all of this, I would commend to the new Minister for Water that he reads, if he has not already, J.M. Powell's Watering the Garden State: water, land and community in Victoria 1834-1988.  Particularly, it would be nice to know that the quote below is read and taken to heart by the Minister for Water.  Powell sourced the quote from Sewell, Smth and Handmer, 'From myths to reality: the evolution of Australian water planning' in their compilation Water Planning in Australia, pp 223-6, 1985.

Table 4 Major Australian 'water myths'
1. 'Water is a Free Good'
(a) Incomplete or nil charges for water withdrawals, flood protection, waste disposal. Water services prices do not match supply costs. Recreation excluded from protected catchments and reservoirs.
(b) Real values not incorporated in choice of use; encourages unlimited, protected occupation of floodplains; assumes that public, not polluter, should pay costs.  Subsidies; waster of water; inappropriate uses; postponement of consideration of optimum uses. Supports single value uses; disadvantages some groups.
2. 'Water Can Be Managed In Isolation'
(b) Need to reconcile inter-agency conflicts - drinking water v irrigation, etc.  Need to reconcile competing mandates - recreation v water supply, etc. Resolution of competing inter-agency jurisdictions and objectives - hydro-electricity v heritage preservation. Overlooks place of water in social and economic development.
3. 'The Desert Will Bloom'
(a) Vast irrigation schemes, current and projected.
(b) Environmental effects and economic profitability require assessment.
4. 'Social Values Are Fixed'
(a) Inflexible water legislation.
(b) Ignores rapidly changing national and international pressures and preferences.
5. 'Water Management Is Mainly For Technical Experts'
(a) Domination of water agencies by engineers/water scientists; search for a 'technical fix' is increasing; minimal provision for public involvement.
(b) Multi-faceted nature of problems ignored; less expensive, environmentally benign solutions overlooked or downgraded; forgets that 'public' contains some equally well-qualified experts; does not harness public concern; misses opportunities for monitoring changing values.

Please note that the above
was published twenty-five years ago.
I will leave it to Networkers to assess
the bleeding obvious.
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