It is nice to know that a political party enjoys the support of a respected commentator, so I thank Quadrant‘s Peter Smith for announcing his intention to vote for the Australian Liberty Alliance on whose behalf I am contesting the Riverina seat of Farrer, currently occupied by Health Minister Sussan Ley, whose career has blossomed since backing the Turnbull coup. I hope, therefore, that Peter does not think me churlish for taking exception to his incidental observation that my party’s plan to drought-proof Australia by reforming water policies and building dams is a bit more than “a pet scheme”. Because the ultimate ignorance is the rejection of something about which a person knows nothing, I hope what follows leads Peter to the conclusion that, in addition to the policies he already likes, the ALA’s approach to promoting both prosperity and a better, healthier environment is a winner.
Over the past ten years, generous and civic-spirited people have invested thousands of hours of their time and many dollars from their own pockets in travelling to all parts of Australia, including the remote areas of Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia, to assess the merits of every possible dam site. Mankind has yet to devise a better way of saving water in times of excess than building dams, which quickly become prime aquatic habitat. As a result the team has appraised not only possible dam sites but hydro-power installations and the prospects for leveraging them to advance the common good. As part of this ongoing assessment of our nation’s water inventory we have had many and long consultations with local government, community and business personnel in all locations. Once again financing their investigations from their own pockets, team members have travelled overseas and inspected water conservation projects, particularly in North America, and integrated those observations with the ALA’s final plan and platform.
The conclusions embrace the input of both state and federal officials concerned with the development and management of Australia’s water resources, along with engineers and other key persons involved in the design and construction of irrigation projects, municipal reservoirs, electrical power generation and efficient water transmission. All of this has been done at no expense to the taxpayer but financed from the pockets of those involved who have no pecuniary interest in any of the projects suggested.
When considering Australia’s water needs and how we supply them readers need to be mindful of this simple and alarming fact: in the last 35 years Australia’s population has doubled, but during that time we have made almost no provision for extra water storage, the one exception being Wivenhoe Dam in Queensland. As a result of government neglect and a cowardice that manifests itself in a reluctance to confront The Greens’ rent-a-mobs and their media allies, the ratio of stored water to population has dropped by more than 60% over recent years. Making this situation even worse is that governments have enhanced the dire consequences of their spinelessness by handing control of large amounts of our stored water to green-minded bureaucracies obsessed with the notion that water must be flushed out to sea in the name of “environmental flow.”
Hence, even after five years of above-average inflows, we are still facing the prospect of a “man-made drought.”
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During that same time period the World Bank has financed over 500 major dams across the world. These dams have been built on every inhabited continent except ours, the land mass with what is easily the world’s most unreliable rainfall and the fastest growing population in percentage terms. I’d therefore hope that Peter reconsiders our agenda — summarised below — and comes to regard it, not as “a pet scheme”, but as a sound, logical, fact-based and much-needed attempt to guarantee Australia’s prosperity and future.
- Abolish the failed Murray-Darling Basin Plan in its current form. Reform or restructure the Murray-Darling Basin Authority so it can fulfil the needs of the Australian people.
- Incorporation of an ‘Australian Commonwealth Infrastructure Fund’ with Snowy Hydro Ltd as base asset, acting as the vehicle to fund the proposed nation-building projects.
- Construction of new dams and reservoirs as well as the transfer of water to provide safe, sufficient and reliable water supplies for our cities and regional agricultural zones.
- The increased use of hydro-electrical power for base load power supply, driven by generators in new dams, as part of ALA’s national energy policy.
- The development of water grids to link up existing and new water storages of cities and regional zones as an efficient way of assuring reliable water supplies during periods of drought.
- Construction of new dams, reservoirs and diversions to expand and create additional irrigation areas to increase food production, return job opportunities and prosperity to regional areas and advance Australia’s position as a trusted supplier of high-quality food products within the APAC region and around the world.
- Increased recycling and reuse of waste and grey water to conserve freshwater.
Rather than deride the ALA’s water-and-power policy as “a pet scheme”, I hope Peter now grasps that we are actually addressing an issue of national importance no other party has the gumption to tackle. If he needs further persuasion, let me suggests that he take a lo0k at Broken Hill’s stinking water supplies and marvel at the fact that a major city could be reduced to desperation by incoherent policies and “environmental flows” sent to the sea in order to appease green ignorance and arrogance.
Ron Pike, the ALA candidate for Farrer, is a water consultant and third-generation irrigation farmer