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Water water every… … where?

February 1, 2007

Mike Rann, Malcolm Turnbull and John Howard have all been exchanging verbal diarrhea about the Murray-Darling Basin. The pathetic incompetence of all state governments and the federal government in relation to water conservation and global warming has really been shown up in the last six months. I must say, as belated as it is and as politically motivated as is seems, Mike Rann’s response to the Howard/Turnbull grab for control over the Murray-Darling Basin does seem to be a good idea and I’ll tell you why I think so.

John Howard has said today in relation to this: “I was elected to try and solve the nation’s problems, I’m trying to solve one of the nation’s problems with this proposal.” Indeed, Howard was first elected 11 years ago this year. 10 years ago, the Kyoto Protocol was drafted and for the last 5 years, most conservation and community groups have been screaming their lungs out at both state and federal governments to get off their arses and do something to stem the tide of global warming and to act NOW to conserve water not only in response to what has been one of the worst droughts in Australian history, but for a common sense approach that will at least attempt to secure our water supply for the future by not engaging in some of the ridiculously wasteful practices of the past. Only over these past few months have I even heard John Howard acknowledge that global warming exists – whilst a majority of the world actually listened to the scientists who were giving warnings about this 15 years ago and got off their arses and drafted the Kyoto Protocol in response in 1997 – when Howard had been in power for a full year. Howard was a still a non-believer this time last year – at the beginning of 2006!

Now, the states don’t get off easily either. I’ve read a few responses over the last few days to Peter Beattie’s decision to scrap the referendum on using recycled water in south-east Queensland and simply go ahead with it. Some of the responses praised Beattie for his vision and leadership (including John Howard). This wasn’t visionary leadership at all. True leadership in this matter would have seen Beattie and every other Premier taking this step at least 5 years ago. Beattie, by his own admission when asked by Tony Eastley on AM the other day about why he was doing this now said “Because we have no choice”. Yes, true visionary leadership there. “Because we have no choice”? Recycled water is a common sense approach to take anyway in one of the driest countries in the world. It’s always puzzled me as to why the hell we flush our toilets, water our gardens and and wash our cars (oh, how we love our cars!) with fresh, clean water. For Morris Iemma and Steve Bracks to still turn down suggestions that their respective states start using recycled water is outright bloody stupid!

And this brings me back to Mike Rann’s suggestion that an independent body be created to manage the Murray-Darling Basin. Politicians, both state and federal have had at the very least 10 years to get going on creating responses and solutions to global warming and securing a safe, clean and sustainable water supply in this country – and for the last 10 years they have failed us. As overall water storage in south-east Queensland heads down towards 20% and hovers around 35% in NSW and the ACT, politicians have FINALLY realised that this is a serious matter and we need to act NOW to respond. If an independent body were created to manage not only the Murray-Darling Basin, but all matters regarding water in this country, the squabbling between the state and federal government would perhaps give way to decent policies being drafted on the basis of independent advice with the single purpose of using what little we have wisely – so that we can finally move foward on global warming and have a better way to deal with the inevitable droughts that we will have to face in the future.

The federal and state governments have had ample time to respond to these issues. If there was ever a time to quit playing politics and give way to an independent body on this matter, it’s now. They’ve failed us for too long on what are the two most pressing issues facing this nation today.

UPDATE: Andrew Bartlett has issued a press release saying much the same thing.

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