Australia’s Water Wars, Food Security and a Forking Insurrection

Australians are starting to adapt to some of the ‘new norms’ with COVID-19: but it remains inconceivable that we still have empty supermarket shelves! We are facing big shortages of food staples the likes of which we have not experienced in this country since the dark old days of WW2 rationing. We have been led to believe that the shortages are a consequence of panic buying, as marauding hordes of crazed consumers embrace ‘bulk buying’ behaviour. But do consumers deserve all the blame?

We are starting to hear noise that the problem is actually a supply shortage, with Australians quickly realising that we no longer produce sufficient staples like dairy, red meat, wheat and rice to meet domestic demand. This was recently highlighted by the 60 Minutes program in relation to Australia’s food security, or rather, the lack of it. Many Australians were alarmed to hear that this country, once renowned for its safe clean, green food exports, is actually importing dairy, pork, wheat and rice, as we are now incapable of meeting our immediate consumption needs.

The reason for the shortages came about two years ago when the Federal government shut down farming in the irrigation area of the Riverina in the southern district of New South Wales, by turning the irrigation water off. This region once produced 60% of Australia’s dairy and grain, with the excess an export commodity and wealth creator for our nation. This is no longer the case.

The Federal government has effectively decided to shoot itself in the ‘food security’ foot and apparently cannot explain why! The only nonsensical distraction is that age old chestnut: the ‘blame game‘ by pointing the finger at another jurisdiction; i.e. States versus the Feds is always a good excuse to avoid responsibility and do nothing.

The concepts of food security and spreading dependency risk are lost on the nation’s leaders. Meanwhile the livelihoods of thousands of Australians are being destroyed, with the forced suffering of the southern farming communities and nation wide food shortages. It seems that we are all invisible to governments who remain aloof and indecisive.

To make matters worse, the countries who usually export food staples to Australia are now holding onto their produce fearing that their domestic food security is at risk. The expectation is that food shortages will get worse in Australia unless the government delivers irrigation water back to the farmers in the Riverina. They simply need to turn the tap back on otherwise no water, no food!

This mess gets even more ridiculous when we ask, what happened to the productive irrigation water the government confiscated from farmers? Well most of it has been wasted for no good reason according to ‘Speak Up 4 Water’. The government’s epic mismanagement and absurd incompetence is simply bizarre, irrational and farcical. One of their more infamous blunders attracting international media attention was running the Darling River bone dry, killing millions of native fish in the Menindee Lakes and wasting 900 billion litres of fresh water by washing it out to sea. How could they get that wrong?

The next rookie fiasco courtesy of the Murray Darling Basin Authority was the vast flooding of the Murray by running the river above capacity, bursting its banks and washing away 1,120 billion litres of water. The flooding caused massive environmental damage to the Barmah National Park‘s river red gum forest and a widespread ecological disaster for local native fauna and flora. This is another catastrophe to add to the litany of errors; one river system drained completely dry, while the other was flooded beyond capacity. They can’t even get the simple stuff right!

The 2,500 kilometre long Murray River eventually flows into the lower lakes in South Australia which was once a salt water tidal estuary. The fresh irrigation water flows through the lakes and out to sea. The surplus unused irrigation water just sits in these shallow saline lakes, an area of 508 sq. km which acts like a massive ‘evaporation pan’ and as a result, unnecessary water waste is estimated at 1,800 billion litres. Why not use this water productively upstream to produce fresh food, after all, water evaporating ‘on farm’ has to be better for the environment than contributing to the salinity of the lower lakes?

Remember: Australia is the driest inhabited continent on earth and this is how its government treats our most precious resource. Why?

Let me float a theory past you. The more water these chumps waste the higher the price of water and the higher the cost of food production, which coincidentally favours those merchant bankers who trade in ‘water rights’ that once belonged to primary producers. That’s another classic government decision that hinders the production of food in this country but happens to line the pockets of international hedge funds, corporates and apparently politicians (See Cayman Island story).

Riverina farmers have also been abandoned by the peak industry body the National Farmers Federation (NFF). Why have the NFF sided with the government who reportedly funds this group for millions through the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment? I suppose its good management not to bite the hand that feeds you. Then again many farmers know the NFF is not representative of farmer’s interests. It is understandable that these types of bodies act in the best interests of their ‘Partners’. Perhaps the NFF should consider changing their name when their ‘Partners‘ are a national supermarket chain, a couple of telecommunication heavy weights, an insurance company and a superannuation fund.

Not surprisingly Mick Keelty’s Murray-Darling Basin review was another soft fluffy report destined for the archives with a complete absence of action or outcomes. Right from the start, I could never understand why cop Keelty was fronting a water review, given his history, judgement and background.

These water wastage figures are enormous and beyond the comprehension of most non farming punters. We should be asking our local member of parliament why, in just two years have they wasted the equivalent of 6.8 Sydney Harbours worth of productive irrigation water? How much rice, wheat, red meat and dairy could otherwise have been produced by our farmers; quality clean and green, local fresh food.

There are so many bad consequences resulting from the government’s massive stuff ups. What happens when you take livelihoods away from hard working minority groups and desert them for no good reason? These rural communities are experiencing real hardship, unimaginable anguish and if you take away hope, then expect desperate people to do desperate things. What is happening in these communities is leaving a trail of misery, physical pain and hurt caused by unbearable, sadness and despair, felt by those managing to hang on, those who have been forced off their land and those prematurely departed.

There is definitely a swell of rebellion or insurrection in the air. Make no mistake, listen to the political leadership’s rhetoric and narrative:

I made it absolutely clear…I’ll tell you what will happen…they will rise in the street of the Riverina…they will rise with pitchforks…because what we are robbing these people and the generations…is the opportunity to feed this nation…and I’ll tell you what…I’ll be at the front of that line with my own pitchfork…because now is the time…and I want the Australian public to understand…now is the time…that we need to use our water for this nation…to feed this nation and…I tell you what…time has run out”! John Barilaro, Deputy Premier of New South Wales, 13 April 2020. (Starts at 6:45)

We talk about culture wars but now we are hearing language that amounts to civil war. It doesn’t take much to spark a wildfire! If anyone is in a position to influence actual outcomes it would be Barilaro but instead he delivers a soapbox full of tough guy, chest beating bravado, talking a big game but as we all know ‘walking the walk’ requires an entirely separate set of skills i.e. actionable outcomes. My deep concern is that this type of colourful language attracts the wrong types, those irresponsible extreme violent activists who interpret such language as a green light for a little anarchy and that won’t help our farming communities.

Perhaps a question for the Deputy Premier should be: Is it still an offence to incite violent crime such as riot or affray?

17 April 2020

“It is impossible to predict the time and progress of revolution”. Vladimir Lenin

MDBA-Government Wastes Water Valued at $1.1 Billion. No Farm Water for Food & Why the Shelves are Empty

Our supermarkets have been laid bare, no stock upon rows of empty shelves. Why is there no meat, no pasta or rice and limited dairy? The powers that be and some in the media would have us believe that it is the public’s bad behaviour and the herd’s ‘hoarding mentality’ that has led to all these shortages. But is this true?

Perhaps what they are not telling us is that there were shortages of these staple commodities in Australia well before Covid-19 visited our shores and this in part, has contributed to the madness and appalling behaviour we have witnessed in our supermarkets.

Most Australians believe that our country has a strong agriculture sector that produces excessive safe food to export to the world. Wrong! We actually have to import most of these commodities and that is why we have shortages of staples like dairy, wheat (pasta) and rice.

Few Australians understand the consequences of these prevarications; we continue to see dairies close and the industry brought to its knees. The red meat herd numbers are at a ‘quarter of a century’ low and we now import wheat. Australia once exported 80% of its rice crop and now we are forced to import rice, all because of government policies and mismanagement, not drought!

We tend to spend so much time on social media that we have ignored the warnings from the mainstream media. All you need to do is read the headlines:

Dairy expert says Australian industry at tipping point as demand puts pressure on supply’,

National cattle herd to hit 24 year low’,

‘Australia to continue buying Canadian wheat in 2019-20: analysts’ and

Imported rice in Australia: pesticides and chemicals found to be above safe standards’, just to name a few alarming articles.

Meanwhile the government insists that we have a secure, safe and self-sufficient staple food supply, but that’s simply not true. What makes matters worse is the government could easily resolve this situation by allowing irrigation agriculture areas like the Riverina in New South Wales to resume farming activity. However it seems that the interests of various political individuals are so financially entangled, that politicians are reluctant to address the issue for fear that full disclosure may incriminate them.

Many in the local electorate are questioning why the National’s MP objects to any political transparency in relation to ownership of water entitlements and why a ‘registry of interests’ for politicians was voted down. Why are the Nationals opposing the 11,000 constituents who petitioned for a Royal Commission?

The safety and certainty of Australia’s food supply chain is at risk at a time when a lot of people are asking, what do politicians stand to financially gain by closing down productive agriculture land; when the country not only needs safe food but could use the export dollars to help pay for the 200 billion Covid-19 debt the government has just borrowed.

The Riverina region was a safe food bowl that once produced 25% of the state’s agricultural produce. It was a viable mixed farming area (dairy, meat, wool, wheat, rice etc.); an irrigation area built early last century to provide a secure food supply in times of drought, as well as export dollars for an emerging nation. After 100 years of investment to build and develop a productive agriculture scheme, the government (and its agencies) decided two years ago, to stop supplying water for the purpose of irrigated agriculture.

This instantly ceased the production of domestic staple food and surplus produce for exports. This decision also destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of inter-generational Australian farmers and their local communities.

So where did this valuable irrigation water go? Well simply put, the government wasted it through unnecessary mismanagement, just apparent ineptitude. Rural Community & Irrigated Food Production advocate group ‘Speak up 4 Water‘ claim that in the last 2 years the Murray Darling Basin Authority has wasted over 2 ‘Sydney Harbours’ worth of water by running the Murray River above capacity. This mismanagement led to ‘unintended’ flooding, not only wasting water but damaging native forests and destroying environmental habitats. A further 1.6 ‘Sydney Harbours’ of fresh water was allowed to just flow out to sea.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority fact sheet indicates that the volume of Sydney Harbour is 560 Gigalitre (GL) so the total amount of productive ‘fresh water’ wasted is in excess of 2,016 billion litres. It is unconscionable that the government of the driest continent on earth, wasted such a staggering amount of agricultural water in the middle of a drought. All this at a time when the government was increasing the output of desalination plants to meet demand.

It seems the more water wasted the higher the price. In August 2019 the ABC reported that the price for allocated water increased 140% to $550 a megalitre. That values the water wasted or mismanaged at over $1.1 billion dollars. There is a lot at stake for those profiteering from ‘apparent’ water mismanagement. There is deceptive behaviour rewarding personal gain thanks to conscious incompetence. There is a reason why this matter has been kept conveniently quiet from most Australians: there are big dollars involved, a dangerous amount of money.

The quick fix for food production is obvious, a little tweaking and water could easily flow again to support agriculture production in the Riverina to deliver safe and secure staple foods and national exports/income for Australia.  The water wasted in the last two years could grow over 800,000 tonnes of rice, so Australia should not and does not need to rely on food imports from countries with uncertain providence. Governments should stop lying to the people and put the country’s needs ahead of any personal gain.

Treachery: meaning…the betrayal of trust. As a country, we are in the enviable position to be reasonable self-sufficient with food security, yet for some unfathomable reason, our government chooses not to be.

2nd April 2020

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within”.

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Australia’s Banking Royal Commission – Consumers Screwed… “once again”!

Like many consumers in Australia, there seems to be a very high level of dissatisfaction with the outcome of the $75 million Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

What did it resolve? The Royal Commission seemed to overly focus on what service providers ‘earn’ for business referrals and not enough on what consumers ‘pay’. In fact, a consequence of the Royal Commission is that home loan borrowers (the consumer) may now end up paying a new upfront fee, just to apply for a home loan. Whether through a Bank or a Finance Broker, the consumer will pay. This is the solution to get rid of commissions paid by Banks to Brokers i.e. move the cost to consumers.

The Banks appear to have been left reasonably unscathed by the Royal Commission. In fact, it may be that they will financially benefit if they no long need to pay for all the business the Brokerage Industry will now introduce to them for free. Somehow, the Brokerage Industry attracted the wrath of the Commissioner and I’m not sure why, given that Finance Brokers write 60% of the home loans and attract only 1% of the consumer complaints. The proposal to have Finance Brokers remunerated by consumers instead of the Banks, simply hands the Banks a massive free kick, saving them millions of dollars in commission payments. If that’s the Commissioner holding the Banks to account, then I don’t think the taxpayers got value for their $75 million.

Then we find out from the Royal Commission that many government compliance, regulatory and enforcement agencies have not done their job, failing to police the Banks and as a result, failing to protect consumers with little to no governance or controls in place. It appears that government regulators like the ASIC, ACCC, ATO, & APRA, may have been compromised due to their very cosy relationships with the organisations they are supposed to regulate. As a result, their negligence has rendered them totally impotent; they were found to be incompetent and incapable of executing their duties.  

The Royal Commissioner now wants to establish a new Government bureau, an overarching agency to police the myriad of existing Government regulators, to make sure these existing agencies actually do their job.  That sounds like overkill, but it acknowledges what we already know, that the bureaucracy is completely incapable of doing what it is designed to do i.e. enforce the regulatory and compliance laws.

Instead of inflating the bloated bureaucracy, why didn’t the Royal Commissioner try and implement recommendations to change the existing incompetence and adopt some of the proven conduct and standards set by private enterprises, like paying people for doing their job. I’m not sure this country needs another layer of bureaucratic ‘keystone cops’ duplicating ‘inefficiency’ on a larger scale.

After the Royal Commission, the Banks are being subjected to closer scrutiny, but not really. The only difference is that the regulatory bureaucrats are now snugly embedded within the various banking organisations. The consequence of these changes is that the Banks, can only move as fast as the slowest bureaucrat, the noticeable impact being the length of time it now takes to get a loan approved.

Is this what happens when we ask legal professionals to solve financial problems?

Now we have another inquiry into Australia’s retirement income system, duplicating the many previously ignored inquiries such as the 2015 McClure Report. The reality is that personal financial and retirement planning is complex and, at the moment, we have a situation where all the vested interest are working against each other, competing for control of the industry and the big loser as always, is the consumer. Now consumers simply cannot afford nor trust the finance and advice industry.

The problem with the Royal Commission and all these inquiries is that the approach is completely wrong. The focus should be from the top down, starting with meeting the needs of the consumer. Consumers need assistance with their finances and retirement planning, yet Financial Advice services are unattainable for most. The complexities and costs are a barrier for the consumers who need assistance the most.

Government compliance is unnecessarily onerous and as the Commissioner pointed out it’s not working. Consumers are confronted with layers of expensive duplicated procedures, which simply adds cost and complexity for no other reason than to pretend that consumers are being protected by it.

The consumers have been left to fend for themselves without a means to access appropriate, quality and affordable strategic planning advice and where applicable, financial product recommendations that are suitable for the needs of the individual.

What the Royal Commission should have done is made recommendations for a mechanism that would restore confidence for consumers, starting with an online search platform where consumers could find a legitimate, ethical, licenced Adviser with a proven track record. The information exists in the Government’s licencing database. Finding the right Adviser who can provide strategic financial advice to consumers on investment, superannuation and retirement planning with personal insurance and estate advice that compliments their strategic plan, would be a good start.

A major contributor to the loss of confidence in the financial advice industry is that too frequently illegal and criminal behaviour was perpetrated predominantly by individuals who were not actually licenced members of the industry in the first place. So what chance do consumers and honest advisers have unless there is a mechanism to assist consumers to identify an ethical and legitimate licenced adviser, thereby weeding out illegal operators who continually rip off consumers.  

In the final analysis it seems that working people are pretty much on their own when it comes to making financial decisions that will hopefully enable them achieve their retirement goals. Consumer friendly legislation needs to be passed now, as it is widely acknowledged that the system is currently broken and the Royal Commission has done little to change that.

The reality is that superannuation alone cannot and will not provide adequate capital to reasonably fund future retirees and that means a significant decline to the standard of living for most Australians when they cease working.

Working people will need to make additional investments outside of their superannuation, if they are to have a sustainable self-funded retirement, assuming you want to stop working at 60/65 years and do not want to spend the rest of your days living on the poverty line, courtesy of a fortnightly welfare cheque.

9 February 2020

More regulation is not the best answer to every problem“. Jerome Powell

Australia’s Wildfires & How Climate Change is to Blame

There is no doubt that the globe’s climate will continually change; one only needs to look at the impact on the planet’s environment as global population doubling every thirty years. The evolving industrialisation over recent centuries has improved the human condition to the extent that in the last 120 years, the planets population has increased by some 370%. That’s bound to stress the finite environment and resources of planet Earth, the question is, will future advancements in scientific research, medical, smart technologies and industrial discovery allow the planet to continue to support this level of population growth and can it be humane and sustainable for the planet and all of its occupants?

Can the economies of the world continue with their unsustainable strategies of ‘growth at any cost’? These economies are effectively pyramid schemes, bringing forward future growth by borrowing exorbitant amounts of money to fund a standard of living well in excess of our means. These loans rely on that ‘future growth’ to be repaid, but again, at what cost to the environment (acknowledging that the planet has capacity limitations)? What happens to the global economies and its citizens when the planet’s environment can no longer support ‘growth at any cost’ strategies?

One of the United Nations strategies to prolong the inevitable (i.e. extend the planet’s ability to sustain population growth) is to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. The intent is to reduce carbon emissions to slow climate change. Australia is the driest inhabited continent in the world (7.692 million square kilometres) with 70% if its area made up of arid or semi-arid land. It is also the smallest, lowest and flattest continent in the world and the most sparsely populated (3.12 people per square kilometre compared to Asia at 95.03). These dynamics makes Australia highly vulnerable to the impact of global emissions so it’s not surprising that Australia is a signatory to the Paris Accord which is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Australia produces approximately 1.3% of world carbon emissions.

In Australia there has been a debate as to what extent climate change has been responsible for this Summer’s wildfires. The question being asked is whether climate change has reduced the time window available in the cooler months, to conduct the necessary ‘control burns’ to reduce the fuel loads feeding these massive Summer wildfires.

The intense bush fires we witness in Australia are due in large part to the excessive amounts of fuel on the forest floor. Unlike Europe, where the forest’s organic waste generally rots on the ground, Australia’s oil based eucalyptus foliage leaves layers of highly flammable fuel on the surface, where it accumulates year on year, unless it is removed by fire, preferably a cool controlled burn but more likely a wildfire.

Australia’s flora flourishes with controlled burning and the practice was introduced by Indigenous Australians who have conducted this type of land care for thousands of years. There is a consensus view that Australian authorities have mismanaged the forest for many years by limiting the frequency of cool, fuel reduction burns. The various reasons relate to disagreements over land management, resource limitations and population density, where a large number of residences have been constructed in high fire danger areas (approx 1.3 million in NSW alone).

The frequency of ‘controlled or fuel reduction’ burns clearly needs to increase, particularly if the available window for cool burning is limited. The efforts to reduce fuel loads need to be doubled and doubled again until the risk of these intensely destructive fires are manageable. Urgent investment in resources to proactively increase fuel reduction burns is needed as a priority, rather than the usual reactive expenditure on more fire retardant assets.

There has been a lot of global media inferring that Australia’s emission based climate change has been the predominant contributing factor for this Summer’s wildfires. This is simply inaccurate and misleading. What we don’t want is for climate change to become the excuse for not conducting the necessary cool control burns that should have been undertaken. Nor do we want unreasonably arguments that responsibility for Australia’s catastrophic wildfires lies with the rest of the world who produce 98.7% of all carbon emissions. Australian’s are well aware that the top three carbon emitters in the world produce approximately 52% of global carbon emissions (China, USA and India).

If we continue to mismanage our forests, then nature will continue to bite hard and history will repeat itself… yet again. Today is the 11th anniversary of Victoria’s Black Saturday Fires where 173 people lost their lives. We have chosen to ignore the recommendations handed down by the subsequent 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission by not conducting the necessary fuel reduction burns and now we wonder why, once again, we have catastrophic and devastating wildfires.

What we do collectively going forward will be a measure of our intelligence and so far we have failed! It’s too convenient to just blame climate change rather than accept responsibility for our mismanagement. Accountability actually lies at our feet, because of our actions or actually the lack of it.

7 February 2020

An old Australian bush saying about scrub… “burn the bush before it burns you”. Unknown

Freedom of the Press, Whistleblowers, Police Raids, National Security Laws & (in)-Human Rights

In early June 2019 the Australian Federal Police (AFP) armed with warrants, conducted searches on a journalists’ private residence and a media outlet, namely the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC). The so called ‘raids’ (or appointment, as was the case with the ABC), were in response to articles published, apparently containing ‘highly classified’ information that was illegally obtained, leaked or provided by whistleblowers.

The wider media’s reaction to the execution of these warrants was outrage and shock, with broad condemnation and claims that this was a direct threat to ‘Freedom of the Press’. In fact, some sections of the media have been quite agitated with claims of intrusive ‘police state’ powers, yet no one disputes that the police acted lawfully.

The media is claiming that they have been victimised by the Australian Federal Police and the Federal Government, adopting Amnesty International’s slogan for persecuted press – ‘Journalism is Not a Crime’. Nonetheless unauthorised publishing of leaked ‘highly classified information’ remains a crime irrespective of your occupation!

The press clearly believes that the laws preventing the media from publishing certain leaked classified information are unjust and therefore a threat to ‘Freedom of the Press’. Should the media’s rights or their unrestricted freedom to publish be above the ‘law of the land’ and why would the judgement of journalists be superior to that of the nations security agencies, when it comes to releasing classified information?

The media argues that breaking the law is in the public’s interest i.e. that the unfettered ‘right to know’ is more important than potentially breaching national security safeguards.

The considered opinion appears to be that while Freedom of the Press is not ‘absolute’ it is a most basic tenet of our democracy. This viewpoint adds to the ambiguity but doesn’t change the fact that the legislation makes no provision for the press to be excluded from observing the law, no matter how righteous journalists believe they may be!

It is clear that a nation’s security depends on its ability to keeps secrets. That is why it’s an imperative that bureaucrats and employees of various government funded agencies honour their employment contracts and uphold their oaths to keep highly sensitive and confidential material secure.

In addition, our allies must be confident that they can trust our alliances when sharing confidential top secret information, without the risk of exposing their assets. Australia’s success in protecting its citizens is dependent upon maintaining the confidence of these various international agencies, with whom we collaborate and exchange highly classified intelligence.

It is therefore understandable that any breaches of employee contracts, where it relates to leaking top secret material, should have harsh repercussions, with similar consequences for those who publish it.

It seems the media can be somewhat hypocritical with regard to contract breaches, particularly when they stand to benefit financially. Why is the press okay with bureaucrats breaching their employment contracts, but not okay when it comes to Israel Folau breaching his?

The media makes commercial decisions to publish leaked ‘highly classified’ material and justify their profitable actions based on the apparent ‘public’s interest’. This is deceptive behaviour because frequently it appears that journalists’ only expose the evidence of anonymous witnesses, for the sole purpose of causing maximum embarrassment to the Government, without broader consideration to the potential highly damaging consequences of breaches to our national security?

There is a clear difference between the press seeking to embarrass the government and a whistleblower exposing the government’s illegal activity. The first may be a disconcerting ‘public interest’ story, however the latter is a clearer case of the ‘public’s right to know’; after all, the greatest hypocrisy and threat to our democracy is when the lawmakers seek to surreptitiously break their own laws.

Reporting illegal behaviour is an obligation for all citizens and is generally encouraged and rewarded in our society, except for some reason when it relates to reporting the illegal behaviour by our government and its agencies.

Why the distinction? What level of clandestine illegality and atrocities does our government commit, that are so repugnant and unjust that ‘national security laws’ are used to conceal the nation’s most obscene crimes?

Keep in mind: the national security laws were intended to protect our citizens, not hide dirty secrets, state criminality and the unlawful actions of the sovereign state.

Meanwhile if you expose state illegality the government will come after you with the zeal of the Chinese communist party and the vigour of Tiananmen Square’s state police, without transparency, judiciary protection, legal ‘due process’ and void of basic human rights. They will destroy you. Why?

Did we have a right to know about My Lai? Did we have a right to know about Abu Ghraib or that the Director of the NSA lied to Congress about the US spying on its own citizens? Did we have a right to know about the shameful illegal conduct of the Australian government, who’s atrocious covert fraudulent behaviour was exposed i.e. when they were caught spying on our closest neighbours and one of the world’s poorest countries, East Timor?

The purpose of Australia’s espionage against East Timor, was to acquire privileged and confidential information to unlawfully gain the upper hand in ‘treaty negotiations’ for the rich oil and gas fields in the Timor Gap. Australia’s objective was to have an unfair commercial advantage in the talks to exploit and deprive this small, poor country out of millions of dollars, by robbing them of their natural resources in the disputed area.

The whistleblowers exposing the above illegality face imprisonment. Why? They should be honoured for upholding the moral and ethical standards expected from our elected officials, who covertly cover up the crimes of their own governments.

If laws are not introduced to protect whistleblowers, then governments will continue to behave unlawfully, in fact, it will escalate if they know they can get away with it. Transparency is essential in any democracy and we shouldn’t have to demand it.

Perhaps the media should be slightly more ‘vocally outraged’ and reappraise or step-up their reporting on the immoral and cruel treatment of whistleblowers, such as Edward Snowden, Julian Assange or Witness K?

Certainly the Australian Government’s attitude towards Assange is akin to paralysis, compared to the resources being thrown at the imprisoned citizen Yang Hengjun, yet their circumstances are not that dissimilar.

Journalists need to give their ‘victimisation’ line a rest, as it is actually the whistleblowers in the firing line, as they stand alone without support and at risk of losing everything, including their freedom. (Unlike journalists who have the backing of powerful multi-media companies standing behind them).

Perhaps the press should take a break from the continuous self-indulgent persecution complex, the excessive languishing and oppressive wallowing and start putting a little energy into lobbying for real change, legislation to protect whistleblowers, those who report and disclose the illegal behaviour of our politicians and the agencies they control.

4th September 2019

He who controls the media controls the minds of the public. Noam Chomsky

The Murray-Darling Basin – Extortion and Betrayal

Photo: Irrigated wheat in the Riverina 1976.

In Australia approximately 85% of the population live along the coast, so in a nation this large (7.7 million square kilometres), it’s not surprising that there exists a disconnect between people living in the cities and our cousins in the bush.

In the sparsely populated interior of Australia, it’s difficult for the concerns of minorities to be heard by those living in urban areas. It’s understandable that city people are mostly unaware of the crushing fight for survival going on in parts of the farming heartland of rural Australia. Of course city dwellers have an intensely keen interest in the probity and safety of their food supply, but beyond that, it seems most are more focused on the price of smashed avocado while pontificating about roasted coffee beans. That said urban dwellers perception of country people is probably just as ill-informed.

In the interior of south-eastern Australia, the fiasco and devastation threatening the livelihoods of farming communities relates to the Murray-Darling Basin. In the cities there is very little noise about this issue, with the general perception being that it’s about mismanagement of the environment, but few actually have an understanding of the real turmoil and complexities. I grew up in the Murray-Darling Basin in the 1950’s, 60’s & 70’s so I thought it timely to add a little clarity, based on the realities of my experience.

It is only 100 years since the first locks and weirs were built on the Murray River launching the Murray River Irrigation Plan, a scheme to have a dry river system deliver water to the arid inland that would ultimately create “one of the most productive food bowls and diverse agriculture regions in the country”. See (Dry Rivers, Wetlands, Environmental Water & Awesome Wells).

What subsequently followed in 1949 was an expansion plan to divert water from the Snowy River westward to provide additional irrigation water for both the Murray and Murrumbidgee Rivers, further supporting Australia’s irrigated agriculture industry. The Snowy River would be redirected beneath the Great Dividing Range with the plan to also include a Hydro-Electricity system to generate peak-load power for the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria.

The Snowy Mountain Scheme was born, with construction completed in 1974 consisting of sixteen major dams, seven power stations (that today provides approx. 7% of Net Energy Metering), transmission lines, a pumping station and 225 kilometres of tunnels, aqueducts and pipelines feeding a large network of irrigation canals and channels. The scheme incorporated the 2,880 kilometre Mulwala Canal, (longer than the Murray and Darling Rivers) the largest irrigation  canal in the southern hemisphere which was completed in 1942 and supplies water to 700,000 hectares of agriculture land.

Also in 1949, construction commenced in far western New South Wales to dam the Menindee Lakes, a chain of shallow freshwater lakes on the Darling River. The irrigation storage scheme also supplied water to Broken Hill and was completed in 1968. Turning the arid inland plains into a productive, diversified food bowl by converting the dry river systems of the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, Darling and Murray Rivers was an engineering feat, the benefits of which were self-evident; exports for a growing nation, while securing a stable domestic food supply in times of inevitable drought.

So what could go wrong with this sustainable irrigation system; sustainable because the ‘source and use’ of the resource was balanced and well managed, simply storing surplus water for use in the dry.

Well, incompetent bureaucrats and revenue starved state governments soon scuttled the sustainability of the system, when they over-reached and started issuing new and larger water rights to landowners located too far from the source, where 90% of the water was wasted in evaporation and seepage. The ‘use’ increased significantly while the ‘source’ stayed pretty much the same, and as a result the system became perpetually stressed, even during seasons of above average rainfall.

The government continued to knowingly sell ‘water rights’ for water that did not exist. To further bolster revenue, the government concocted a deceptive racket, charging farmers based on their water entitlement, rather than the water they actually used. The injustice is that farmers pay for water they never receive and in some years they pay full price for zero water. In any other industry this type of extortion would be the subject of a Royal Commission. I know I’m stating the obvious but an irrigation farming property cannot be commercially viable without irrigation water! It gets worse!

The system was established to provide sustainable water for primary production and the ecosystems and now the scheme was failing to deliver for the purposes for which it was established. In simple terms the governments increased the ‘use’ without increasing the ‘source’ which would require the building of additional water storage. But they failed to act. It has been approximately 45 years since a dam has been built, meanwhile the population has increased by 70%. So the government’s short sighted delinquent mendacious behaviour is the reason the system has failed.

As stated above, the Murray-Darling Basin scheme was designed to accommodate the needs of the irrigation agriculture industry as well as preserving the long-term sustainability of the rivers and lower lakes ecosystem. Successive governments have totally mismanaged the basin, to the point where there was insufficient water for neither the environment nor primary production. The stress was most obvious during the millennium drought.

With the advent of minority government in recent years, we witnessed the dysfunction of extreme politics, decimating rural community’s right across the basin. Instead of addressing years of mismanagement, governments effectively stopped supplying water to farmers with 70% (approx) of total water in the system, now flushed out to sea; water in the name of the environment. Meanwhile desalination plants in the cities are busy doing the opposite, countering this apparent environmental policy by generating fresh water from the ocean and further contributing to our carbon emissions.

‘Environmental water’ has devastating consequences for the health of the waterways with prolonged ‘artificial flooding’ causing extreme environmental damage and stress to the ecosystem. The reckless mismanagement of the Murray Darling has accelerated river bank erosion and caused irreversible harm to the forests in the internationally significant Barmah National Park decimating native flora and fauna (see ‘The Choke‘)… not to mention the ecological disaster created when the Menindee Lakes were drained, contributing to the horrendous summer fish kills.

This extreme action has been devastating; transforming the once productive inland plains to what now resembles a desert, occupied by good people in a desperate situation courtesy of populist bipartisan politicians who consider these communities disposable.   

So now we have a situation where the water in the Murray Darling irrigation system is paid for by farmers facing bankruptcy, … so their water can be flushed out to sea … to preserve man-made freshwater wetlands … that were artificially created by damming a tidal salt water estuary … # . It sounds like madness but unfortunately it’s true!

If farmers are not receiving enough water to run a viable diversified farming operation, then they’ll surrender the interior to the desert and make the Murray-Darling Irrigation system redundant. That may be considered a good outcome for some, but what happens when food shortages are felt in the cities and suburban Australia? This is starting to happen now; Australia has been forced to import butter and now wheat from Canada because we cannot produce enough grain to meet domestic demand. The risks of food shortages are real!

# The waters of the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Darling rivers all flow into the Murray River which subsequently flows into the lower lakes in South Australia near the township of Tailem Bend. The lower lakes and wetlands were once a tidal saltwater estuary until about 80 years ago when they were dammed; creating a situation where the 500 square kilometres of the lower lakes are dependant on the declining and inconsistent freshwater flows from the Murray River.

Perhaps the lower lakes should be reopened to tidal flow rather than relying on fresh water to protect its ecosystem i.e. return the lower lakes back to their natural form the way it was prior to the 1940’s. That would negate the need to waste fresh water in the name of the environment, our most precious resource and restore the Murray-Darling Basin back to a productive food bowl, as was always intended, provided water rights are issued on a sustainable basis and not controlled by a few big corporations.

Clearly it is not sustainable or equitable when a small number of large corporations, with deep pockets can control the bulk of the allocated water; a commodity that was once a shared resource for the benefit of all rural communities in the basin. Now the collective communities have been cut off and effectively starved of their livelihood, in order to protect the vested interests of a few, like the Sunraysia’s almond industry whose apparent immunity to water shortages is in part, the reason ‘the choke’ is drowning.

Ask how an Italian multinational; the world’s 4th largest confectionery conglomerate can acquire enough irrigation water from the Murrumbidgee River for a ‘demonstration farm‘ to cultivate 1 million hazelnut trees (in a climate unsuitable for hazelnuts), when for the second year in a row, most “irrigators will have little or no water to farm with this year”.

The governments reckless indifference has enabled its own agency to operate like pathological autocrats, as they administer the slow ‘economic eradication’ of vulnerable rural communities. These bureaucratic executives have commissioned ‘compromised academics’ to legitimise the policies of their political masters. They zealously enforce ‘morally corrupt’ rules based on dubious and conjectural (un)scientific research, while apathetically employing strong-arm tactics, with a customary quantum of bureaucratic and political bastardry!

24 June 2019

“An incompetent person in a responsible position may cause huge damage. Such a person should act less and think more.” ― Eraldo Banovac

Australia’s Federal Budget – Fat Fairies sprinkle Magic and Bull Dust

Last week the Federal Treasurer handed down his Budget with an opening announcement that “for the first time in 12 years, our nation is again paying its own way”!

The Treasurer projected annual budget surpluses for the next four years totalling $45 billion with surpluses continuing to build “as we climb the mountain and reach our goal of eliminating commonwealth net debt by 2030 or sooner”. This is debt that the Treasurer would have us believe was inherited from the previous government. Not completely true but I won’t focus on the pejorative commentary.

Anyhow, net debt is the government’s gross debt less its financial assets; however, it is the gross debt that needs to be serviced with the annual interest cost for the national debt now a massive $18 billion. That’s approximately $50,000,000.00 a day! The reality is that the surplus projected for next year of $7.1 billion would be wiped out if interest rates increased by just 1%, that’s how sensitive and vulnerable the numbers are.

A little drilling down on ‘the numbers’ in relation to the nation’s gross debt is necessary to add clarity to the truth. The previous government was in office from 2007 to 2013 when the nation’s gross debt grew from $58 billion to $257 billion, an increase of $199 billion.

The current government has taken the nation’s gross debt to $692 billion, an increase of $435 billion.

How can our representatives overspend by $435 billion and then beat their chest about restoring the nation’s finances without increasing taxes? How is that responsible progressive disciplined management? If we can’t reduce expenditure to live within our means, then perhaps we should increase taxes (not reduce them), rather than continue to fund deficits with unconstrained borrowings, a debt of $692,000,000,000.00.

Higher growth has been underwritten and financed from excessive debt which means the record number of new jobs/lower unemployment and reduced welfare costs have been synthetically manufactured; funded by enormous amounts of money, borrowed at a frenetic rate that is straight out irresponsible! These apparent positive economic indicators are the result of artificial market intervention and not a consequence of a stronger economy. Thus, the Treasurer’s performance figures are skewed with massaged statistics that are not reliable or sustainable in the long-term.

It is unbelievable that populist politicians think that they have demonstrated budget discipline for a stronger Australian economy when the whole system has been pump-primed with cash to stimulate debt-funded growth. When it comes to the goal of eliminating debt I can only quote Kevin Costner in JFK the movie, “I find your story simply not believable”.

So this is how the federal government celebrates being “back on track”. It’s a race to the bottom as all political parties advocate delusional strategies i.e. that lower taxes will somehow balance the budget. Smoke and mirrors, magic and bull dust, it smells like the absence of ‘truth and honesty’ as all political parties promise the electorate more of what is already unaffordable. It’s becoming a case of who you mistrust the least!

One undeniable truth is that at some point, a future generation will need to significantly forfeit their standard of living to pay for the debts that funded our irresponsible and excessive lifestyle.

8 April 2019

When all else fails there’s always delusion. Conan O’Brien

IMF and You: Global Growth vs Environmental Sustainability

In January 2019 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued a warning that global expansion is weakening at a rate that is somewhat faster than expected and that the risk of a more significant downward correction is rising.

Why was it critical to issue this warning? Are the capitalist market economies that vulnerable and sensitive to the smallest variation in global growth, that the slightest downturn has economies teetering on the brink of a global recession?

To counter declining growth there are calls for additional quantitative easing, i.e. where central banks increase money supply to artificially stimulate growth in the economy. This strategy effectively brings forward future consumption, however it has limited effect over the longer term.

The difficulty for market analysts calling for monetary policy stimulus to reduce interest rates, is that global financial capital markets are tightening, creating conditions where borrowing costs will be higher irrespective of the actions of central banks.

These mounting headwinds – the risks of rate hikes and declining GDP – give rise to the inevitable lending constraints and loan serviceability pressures on those populous western capitalist governments who choose to slowly drown in debt rather than risk electoral defeat with responsible fiscal policies.

We cannot prolong the inevitable indefinitely. Markets will remind the electorate that there are limitations i.e. that your government can only kick the can down the road so far, as Debt to GDP ratios reach levels not seen since World War ll.

The capitalist economies are addicted to debt-funded growth – growth at any cost. They are consumer driven economies, where the expectations are for continual improvement in prosperity through higher wages, bigger homes, newer cars, more and better consumables. We want to continue to lift our standard of living and to get what we want by voting for those populist politicians who irresponsibly promise more, not what is sustainable.

Eventually it will be realised that you cannot continuously have higher wages while global growth is in decline and for those who haven’t noticed, while the planet’s stressed environmental health is rapidly deteriorating.

The capitalist global economies are effectively a pyramid system where the efficient market hypothesis and rational market theories are founded on the premise that global population continues to double every 30 years. However this is about to change for the consumerist, as clearly planet earth is approaching the limits of populous sustainability; the catalyst being when the world is inevitably forced to modify its carbon footprint and possibly face the consequences of a significant decline in global production.

It is this unsustainable global environmental health trend that should be concerning the IMF … and you.

What the capitalist didn’t envisage in the 19th century was that the planet would face such rapid population growth (370% in 117 years) and the negative consequences associated with the unpredicted challenges and ramifications of climate change: Arctic/Antarctic meltdown, excessive carbon emissions, landfill limitations, loss of recycling markets, deforestation, air pollution, water crisis, atmospheric build up, ocean dead zones, natural resources drain, soil degradation etc.

Global growth will progressively decline under the weight of a choking planet if you extrapolate the impact of the current global environmental health trends to their natural prognosis. The assumptions reasonably lead to a world population eventually facing the grim realities of intractable food inflation, a risk that will initially challenge the survival of the most vulnerable the world’s poorest countries.  

If we could simply start making decisions based on sustainability rather than expedience (economic, political or otherwise), we stand a chance of managing our decline in a controlled, humane and possibly bearable manner!

Meanwhile sharing a common desire to seek reasonable reward for our labour is antithetical to our aspirations for a healthy sustainable planet. The unresolved quandary of our inaction is the mutually exclusive cause and effect of climate change. Saying we are advocates for the planet is fashionable but ultimately we will be judged by our actions.

10 March 2019

“The time is past when humankind thought it could selfishly draw on exhaustible resources. We know now the world is not a commodity.” Francois Hollande.

13 Dead Indigenous Children – Washing Hands of Blame by Pointing the Finger

In February 2019 the Western Australian Coroner released her findings into the deaths of 13 Indigenous children in the Kimberley. The report concluded that 12 of the deaths were suicides, with some of the children as young as 10.

The Coroner blamed this Cluster of Kimberley child suicides on ‘tragic inter-generational trauma’. Meanwhile children are still dying, yet the wider reaction from the numerous ‘responsible entities’ was open defiance as they completely denied accountability. This is scandalous although it helps explain the atrocious historical track record of inaction. How is this acceptable?

We witnessed a number of contemptible interviews following the Coroner’s report; the responsible Ministers, Indigenous politicians, bureaucrats and Indigenous leaders representing the countless government-funded Agencies, Aboriginal Councils and Departments. Not one stated ‘what they should have done’, ‘what they will do’ or ‘what they can do to help’; rather they point the finger of blame elsewhere and accepted no responsibility for their inaction; detestable behaviour!

Don’t get me wrong they were empathetic, just not responsible, so what do these professional ‘desk riders’ do for their generous taxpayer-funded remuneration?

If Government funds over $30 billion a year to Indigenous Australia, shouldn’t the entities and agencies accepting the funding be responsive for the devastating outcomes we are witnessing in Indigenous communities.

Are we effectively condoning the ‘washing of bloody hands’ by accepting their denials of accountability?

If these taxpayer-funded institutions are not performing, why do they continue to be financed? If they are not capable of doing their jobs; the basics i.e. protect innocent children, then who can? The answer it seems is ‘no one’. Apparently not a single person and $30 billion could save these 13 vulnerable Indigenous children, those with the most desperate rudimentary needs for living!

I’m not sure if it’s a remote tribal problem, between those who control the money in the cities versus those with needs in isolated communities, but what is certain is that very little of the $30 billion a year is being spent where it is needed most, on the front line in Indigenous communities.

In fact, if you look at the conditions on the ground, it leaves you wondering where the money is being spent and whose pockets are being lined? We’ll never know while accounting firms are reluctant to reveal the truth in their audit reports, dare they be labelled racists and face being black banned by the lucrative ‘Indigenous industry’.

If the only reaction from the entities with the power and money to effect real change is to point the finger of blame elsewhere, then something significant needs to change (a complete overhaul) if we are to help Indigenous communities in desperate need.

The sad reality is that the message to the children of the Kimberley is the same, nothing has changed, nothing will change, you’re on your own, and help is not coming!

Meanwhile, after 11 years of the failed Closing the Gap strategy, we still think that continuing to throw more money at the problem will resolve the deeply ingrained duplicitous laundering of taxpayer money that never reaches the remote communities where it is intended and acutely needed.

This deceptive behaviour, in the hands of those who control funding is vaguely fraudulent, where mismanagement (at a minimum) deprives those in need of the intended benefits. Those in control of taxpayer monies are prospering at the expense of those in desperate need, innocent dead children; children whose final act at age 10 acknowledges their desperation, the realisation that they will never have hope for a meaningful future because the promised help and support is not coming.

It’s clear that Indigenous symbolism takes priority, e.g. mourning Invasion Day, the populous protest that is apparently more important than any issue that requires tangible action, like saving the lives of Indigenous children. Who mourns for these kids in the wider national community?

Culpability lies at the feet of all those who take the cash in the name of advocating for Indigenous Australians, those getting fat, by deliver nothing short of banal noise, insincere rhetoric and disastrous outcomes that contribute to the despair and deaths of the most vulnerable and innocent!

A complete re-examination of the immorality of our actions is required if we are to improve the basic Human Condition for Indigenous Australia, or at least those People in the wider Indigenous communities who don’t control or influence the allocation of funding.

Imagine the scandal if there were 13 child suicides in an Australian offshore detention centre, the atrocity would potentially bring down the Australian Federal Government, accompanied by a choir of global condemnation from all quarters. Every citizen would feel the national shame of such a horrendous scenario.

But when it actually happens in an Indigenous community in Australia, the silence is deafening. Why are humanitarians invisible on this, why are Indigenous activists so quiet, why is the wider community unsympathetically blind? There should be indignation and outrage, contrite, guilt, shame, pain, anger, sorrow…. but nothing ….not a drop of cold sympathy…. and you know why!

15 February 2019

U.S.A. Today

Sunday morning, slept in and didn’t dribble on my pillow, good start! Time for coffee and see what’s happening in the world.

Still half asleep, hit the radio, it’s politics and ‘midterm elections’ fanning the morning air. By the first bathroom break and coffee number two, midterm coverage had consumed about 95% of the waking time. Does the media not realise that the majority of people with the actual power to exercise their democratic right, don’t care. Only approx. 40% of eligible voters turnout for midterm elections. Time to change the channel!

Hello, good news, unemployment at its lowest level in 50 years. Surely, this must be fabulous news for all Americans, but somehow an opinionated detractor has managed to deflect the noise so it’s about discrimination and gender issues. Apparently we should be setting aspirational targets (100%) and not outcomes we could realistically achieve. Maybe these views reflect the difference between the academic theorists and the practical application applied by those who actually work. Time to change the channel!

A story about a warning from the U.N. Population Fund and the famine conditions in Yemen. They predict that some 2 million Yemeni mothers face starvation. Why the gender breakdown when the U.N. has already warned that 13 million Yemeni civilians face starvation in what it says could become “the worst famine in the world in 100 years”. Why sanitise the truth for your target audiences. Time to change the channel!

Here we go again, a story about the right to bear arms and the relevance of a Constitution that was drafted in 1787, back when the arms borne were muskets and not semi-automatic rifles. There is something like 12,000 firearm homicides in the U.S. each year and about 22,000 suicides. But today’s horrible news tops all that! The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reports that ‘drug overdoses’ killed 72,000 Americans in 2017 and it wasn’t even a headline story. Time to change the channel!

A story about ‘Punishing Iran’ and how U.S. led sanctions are about stopping oil exports from Iran, the source of 80% of the country’s revenue. The story leaves me wondering who will benefit from the sanctions, given that neighbouring Saudi Arabia is the world’s number one oil exporter and the country with the largest oil reserves, the same country who denies murdering a U.S. citizen in their Embassy in Turkey. Will Iran resemble Yemen in a couple of years if this administration has its way? Time to change the channel again!

Now a legal story about whether Harvard admissions are unfairly discriminating against Asian Americans. The story states that Harvard is stereotyping Asian Americans accusing the institution of racial balancing, when it’s illegal to use quotas in college admissions. Meanwhile, the data shows that Asian Americans make up 22% of admitted students at Harvard compared to 6% of the U.S. population. I wondered how Native Americans feel about this apparent discrimination, the real ‘forgotten minority’ in higher education. Changing the channel!

Good Lord a story about how busy all our lives are now and what are we to do? Come on, seriously, compared to who? For a starter, google how to improve your time management’ skills.  Don’t sit around while you’re whinging, learn how to multitask and double your productivity by ‘whinging while you work’ to gain ‘favour’ with your colleagues. Maybe whinge instead of eating so much and improve the robustness of your energy levels and save the environment by displacing less bath water. Organise yourself better, do what you say you’re going to do and get off social media, yep social media! You’re not busy, just disorganised; get over yourself!

That’s it no more, too much bullshit for me, radio off and back to bed. Maybe I need to sign up to twitter or facebook so I can have a fanciful virtual life, one that is too busy and unfulfilling enough to complain about!

4 November 2018

“We cannot make good news out of bad practice” – Edward R. Murrow