Doomed Planet

How the Murray Went up the Creek


The incursion of the Federal government into the states’ constitutional right to the management of rivers and their water was the result of sensationalist and mostly false claims made during the millennium drought. Emotionalism and sophistry replaced truth and reason as it was claimed that our rivers were dying due to irrigators’ greed, with the consequent lack of flow the cause of hyper salinity in the Coorong at the Murray’s mouth. Claims of dying river red gums, drying wetlands and species loss were repeated with graphic but mostly misleading detail.

Reacting to these emotive but false claims, then-PM John Howard boldly committed ten billion dollars to “fix” the Murray-Darling Basin. Neither Howard nor his ministers had any idea how to do this, even if a “fix” was necessary. Newly appointed environment and water minister Malcolm Turnbull was given the task of legislating the spending of this money. The result was 2007’s Federal Water Act , soon to be overseen and the Gillard government under the supervision of water minister Tony Bourke. That this legislation was contrary to Section 100 of the Constitution, in addition to being a “solution” to a non-problem, was overlooked by politicians on both sides as they rushed to quell cries of impending environmental disaster by Greens and city environmental disciples.

The passing of this federal legislation led to the setting up of an unnecessary federal bureaucracy called the Murray-Darling Basin Authority manned by over 400 inexperienced and water-unaware people, but with only one directive: to return water to “the environment.” No attempt was made to determine and define what the environment” was, where it resided or even if it really did require more water.

It was quickly but incorrectly assumed by these novice water managers that licenses to irrigate must no longer be attached to land that could be irrigated, and as a result could be bought and traded by any entity, particularly the MDB Authority. This they again incorrectly opined would create a flexible “water market.”

The predictable results of this incompetent and incoherent policy, supported by both sides of politics, is now apparent across a “scorched earth” landscape that was previously an efficient and productive food bowl envied by much of the world and home to two million people, quite a few of whom are now packing it in and leaving the land. In the three videos embedded below, Topher Field lays it out in all its shocking, asinine detail.

Our dams built to assure downriver communities always had water are now empty or very low. Many of the rivers are dry and unless Mother Nature intervenes, many more soon will be. Vast areas of previously pristine aquatic wetland breeding areas are now dry. Examples are many but the Menindee Lakes, Keepit and Burrendong Dams are good examples. Communities on some rivers do not even have drinking water.

Industries such as the washed-potato industry, dairying and rice and corn industries have been brought to their knees and producers are leaving for another future. As an example, prior to the implementation of the MDB Plan the Riverina rice industry was the most productive and efficient rice industry in the world, producing around one and a half million tonnes of paddy per year and exported to over 40 countries. The season just completed the crop was down to just 59,000 tonnes and the outlook for next season is zero production.

So this much lauded and very expensive Plan has failed the environment, failed the people, failed our food producers and destroyed the future for nearly two million Australians.

It must be abolished immediately and replaced with a plan based and rooted in the real world — a plan, in other words, that works for all.

Part II

Part III

12 thoughts on “How the Murray Went up the Creek

  • Wayne says:

    People and their livelihoods don’t count anymore at least those outside of the cities.

  • Charles says:

    Good comment, the Plan as you say was developed and implemented using as its basis utter bulldust. Now we are stuck with something that wastes billions of litres of water trying to keep two evaporation ponds near the mouth of the Murray as fresh water lakes, even though they were originally estuaries.

    The level of stupidity being applied in this Plan is extraordinary in its extent and homogeneity.

  • Alan Barber says:

    It seems the constitution should be examined in line with the best thing for both Australia and the climate. All crops need water. Of course some more than others. With recent comments of overseas manipulation of water rights it would be prudent if all Australians benefited from water not the entrepreneurs and big guys.
    Since my education in Inigo Jones times, Mars and the moon are scarce on water and Australia is a bit light on too. AlanIO

  • padraic says:

    If they could pipe water from the Perth region to Kalgoorlie many years ago, surely it is not beyond modern engineering to pipe surplus water from the regular wet season rains in Australia’s north into the Murray-Darling network. Australia appears to be run by spineless urban office-jocks trembling in fear of activists espousing a Neanderthal lifestyle.

  • Adelagado says:

    Topher Field seems to be advocating a Murray River that doesn’t flow at all. That’s no good. It has to flow to flush out the salt and chemicals that wash in off the land. If the river just becomes a series of stationary ponds evaporation will soon make the water unusable. And some of his editing is a quite misleading. He never at any stage actually shows a clear shot of the Murray mouth, which is rather odd don’t you think? The scene of the Goolwa barrage is downright deceptive. It looks like theres a huge flow of water coming through the barrage. If fact the water only dribbles through. The water on the right hand side of the frame is not Murray water. Its seawater and highly saline Coorong water. The actual Murray mouth (that he never shows) is often little more than a drain – barely navigable in a tinny. East coasters who are more familiar with massive estuaries and bays would be surprised to see just how small the Murray mouth really is.

  • wstarck says:

    Several decades ago Australia had an abundance of the least expensive high quality food of any developed nation. Since then food prices have increased to among the highest of any OECD nation with fast growing reliance on imports. Ill-conceived political pandering to the delusions of urban greens and the ignorant opinions of office based academic “experts” have been a primary factor in driving over two-thirds of primary producers from their industry.

    Historically the Murray River was a seasonal river which ceased flowing over much of its length each dry season. Irrigation turned it into the nation’s breadbasket with a side benefit of greatly enhancing the carrying capacity of the area for native wildlife. The idea of giving priority to use of a large part of the water impounded for irrigation for artificial “environmental flows” which never occurred in nature is beyond stupid. As an act of sublime ignorance it reminds me of the $165 million per year we spend on importing canned tuna from Thailand which comes largely from the same stocks we won’t let our fishermen catch for environmental reasons.

    If we continue to let our urban non-producers dictate to our productive sector it will only be a matter of time before we wake up to China having bought most of our failing enterprises and finding it necessary for their own strategic interests to take over the relevant decision making. So sorry, about that.

  • rosross says:

    Well intentioned stupidity seems to be the modern way. There are many examples other than water – privatizing utilities, privatizing prisons, privatizing aged care and ever increasing levels of vaccination with no idea what the long-term outcomes for such a medical experiment might be. All very well-intentioned but the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

  • Multi Gaz says:

    Given that Malcolm Turnbull oversaw the creation of the MDBP, should we be surprised that it is been a death-blow to our food production industry in eastern Australia? Everything that man touches turns to dung.
    Will we come to our senses? I don’t think so. The march of the socialist left through all of our institutions, is almost complete. We are reaping what we have sown over the last 50 years.

  • Helen Armstrong says:

    “padriac’s” comment is very true and in fact is encompassed in the Bradfield scheme. That scheme embraces the harnessing of many Northern Rivers and diverting substantial flows back South. In reality that would need to be conducted in conjunction with allowing substantial estuarine flows regularly as that is what promotes a healthy aquatic life particularly of the prawn and Barramundi hatcheries in the upper river systems and then outpouring to the growing grounds of the wider ocean. I have lived nearby these areas for the last fifty years and I would thoroughly promote commencing that scheme from the Western sections of the Gulf of Carpentaria as far as the MacArthur on the NT side to feed the upper Dimiantina thence moving Eastwards to the Northern and Mid northern Qld river systems to feed the upper darling. The Flinders river even though we have seen graphic portrayals of its immense out flows very recently and which occur every forty years or less may prove more problematical due to large areas of flat collection areas, however I am no engineer.The mighty Fitzroy which terminates at Rockhampton should be a good one. Further North the big Burdekin River Dam provides for not only sustainable agriculture in the areas that it services but also contributes greatly to replenish ground water supplies. The southern river system of the Brisbane River I feel could be controlled locally with a much needed flood mitigation only dam in its upper reaches, which must be released annually to feed more horticulture particularly downstream and to much better regulate the Wivenhoe Dam levels. However i very much applaud Tropher’s work which mirrors that of Jennifer Marahosy and others.

  • Helen Armstrong says:

    I should qualify my comment to say that should any commencement of teh Bradfield scheme “” be contemplated without first addressing correct Murray River management it would be polictical suicide for any politician to promote harnessing Norther Waters to send them out to sea from the Murray. Goodness Gracious – Spare me.The message is simple – sort the issue at its root first.

  • Louis Cook says:

    Not one mention of United Nations Agenda 21 ( or Agenda 2030 (, the devious background of international treaties designed to destroy Australian Sovereignty. Why do democratically elected politicians so blatantly surrender the rights of Australians? Now they are going to shred the Australian Constitution.

  • padraic says:

    I agree Louis. The discreet use of s.51 (xxix) (External Affairs) to adopt UN Conventions and dubious international treaties causes de facto changes to our Constitution without having to have referenda is a blot on our democracy. There should be widespread public consultation and discussion before such adoptions are finalised..

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