Barnaby: We Must Realise Water Is Wealth

20 May

A must-read article by Senator Barnaby Joyce.

From the Canberra Times (emphasis added):

Canberra, as I have stated before, is an example of an effective policy of regional development.

What makes it possible relies on many ingredients, two of the most important being employment and water. Canberra has an obvious source of jobs and the third longest river in the Murray-Darling basin, the Murrumbidgee. This makes possible Canberra’s ability to invest in an 87GL dam on the Cotter River.

Recently I visited the Gulf in Northern Queensland. This area provides immense opportunity for further development in our agricultural sector. Georgetown sees at least 4000GL go down the Gilbert River every year. The people of Hughendon and Richmond have access to about 2000GL – of which about 5 per cent is currently used. These flows meander down through vast tracts of deep, self-mulching loams with immense food producing capacity.

At the moment there are no large storages to harness this water and use it to produce more food. That is not the fault of the locals, many of whom want to encourage economic development and build the infrastructure to do so.

People like Fred Pascoe, mayor of Carpentaria Shire and head of the Gulf Savannah Development Corporation. He sees that the only way for his fellow indigenous people to get ahead is to have access to the jobs and opportunities that other Australians take for granted. I wish people would speak to Mr Pascoe before they start making decisions about his life and his people.

What Australia has lacked is the vision to develop our water resources for the benefit of the people who live here, for the benefit of our nation as a whole and for the benefit of those who are hungry all over the world.

Instead, what Australia has been doing of late is to take Australia out of the agricultural market by locking up wild rivers, imposing inflexible native vegetation laws and providing tax concessions to plant forests where there used to be livestock and crops. Very handy if we are going to evolve into a higher form of termite but not much use if we want to prevent Australia from becoming a net importer of food.

Just the other night I heard from a farmer in northern NSW who wanted to install a more efficient irrigation system. To do so he would have to clear a grand total of 42 trees. The Government said yes as long as he bought the adjoining property and planted nearly a million trees on it. He has not taken up the offer.

The result is that in 1980 Australia had 496 million hectares of farming land. In 2010 we have 399 million hectares. In 1980 we had roughly 136 million sheep. In 2010 we have 68 million sheep.

What this shows is that in a world where the population is getting bigger we are either producing less or staying stagnant. We are getting more proficient but we are not producing more.

It is no wonder because we are not investing in the capital to do so.

We have not built a major dam for over 20 years. In 1980 we could store in dams about 4.5ML per person. Now the figure is just over 3.5ML. By 2050, if we don’t build any more dams, it will be below 2.5ML per person.

That is why the Coalition will build more dams. The Coalition’s dams task group, that I am the deputy chairman of, is the first step in that process.

Water is wealth and dams make hungry people happy. We should realise that domestic environmental policies have a real effect on real people beyond our nation’s borders. We also should have a quiet little wake-up call to ourselves that we are importing more and more of our food, predominantly from South-East Asia.

I always thought that we would be feeding South-East Asia not being fed by South-East Asia.

When you make the conscious choice for Australia to eat somebody else’s food you are implicitly endorsing their environmental practices: strip fishing, clearing of jungles and rainforests, endorsement of sweatshop labour as a preference to Australian awards. That is your choice.

I would prefer that we have a clean, green agricultural sector in Australia but to do so we have to make the investments which allow it to grow alongside our population.

For all those “green” cargo cult members who oppose building more dams, whilst at the same time crying poor on behalf of poverty-stricken nations abroad, please consider the following news story from AAP:

Nepal faces malnutrition crisis as UN scales back

The United Nations is to stop distributing food to nearly a million people in remote western Nepal because of funding shortfalls, threatening a major health crisis, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Nepal is one of the world’s poorest countries, with more than half the population living on less than $1.25 a day. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says 41 percent of Nepalese people are estimated to be undernourished.

But the WFP says it does not have enough funds to continue flying supplies by helicopter to western Nepal, where road access is patchy and around a million people rely on UN food aid.

More dams, means more food.

More food, means cheaper food.

For more human beings.

Barnaby is right.

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