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What Gina wants, Gina gets

In 2012, Gina Rinehart self-published a book called Northern Australia and then some: Changes We Need to Make Our Country Rich. In it she calls for northern Australia to become a special economic zone with tax and red-tape exemptions.

At the time, Tony Abbott rejected Mrs Rinehart’s calls, declaring it was “not something that the Coalition considered and it’s not something that the Coalition is planning for”.

In what has since come to be the usual course of events, he was contradicted by his Treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey, who said the Coalition was committed to boosting investment and a northern economic zone was on the table.

“We want to explore it, but it is a long-term plan and it needs further discussion,” Mr Hockey said.

Barnaby Joyce, a close friend of Gina’s, said “If you believe in developing northern and regional Australia, it is quite obvious that you need to develop policies that attract people to northern Australia, otherwise it’s just rhetorical flourish with no substance behind it.” And it appears Gina is getting her way with the plan once again under discussion.

“There are some forms of tax concession which would be under constitutional prohibition but obviously if it’s constitutionally acceptable, and there are some things which are constitutionally acceptable, there would be no reason why it couldn’t be looked at by the White Paper.” – Tony Abbott in Darwin on 28 February 2014.

While in opposition, the Coalition flagged a plan to build 100 new dams across the country as part of a plan to prevent floods, fuel power stations and irrigate food bowls.

The total cost of the coalition’s water management plan, if all projects were approved, would be $30 billion. They included new dams for the Hunter Valley and along the Lachlan River in NSW and a $500 million plan to raise Warragamba Dam as well as a proposal to pipe water 1500 kilometres from the Kimberley to Perth.

After the idea was widely panned, the Coalition sought to distance itself from the leaked report, saying it had no specific plan yet to build 100 dams across Australia. But that was then, and this is now. With the IPA and ANDEV pushing for dams to be built, it’s very much back on the agenda.

In a review of past developments in northern Australia, Woinarski and Dawson (1997) commented that there was “a pattern of general disregard for information and scant concern for environmental consequences of success (or failure)” and that there was a perception that the environment in the north of Australia was “so extensive and of so little value that little safeguard needs to be built into development proposals”.

Changing community values shifted community and government focus to water efficiency, full cost recovery, water trading, separating water rights from land title, integrated water resource management and acknowledgement of the environment as a legitimate user of water.

But it appears we have taken a step backwards with Barnaby Joyce overseeing a Commonwealth ministerial working group which includes Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss, Environment Minister Greg Hunt, Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment, Senator Simon Birmingham.

Mr Joyce said that water infrastructure had to keep pace with economic opportunities in Australia’s region and that we “have to take advantage of the growing wealth of hundreds of millions of people who live close by.”

“We have the Treasurer today talking about the recycling of capital. One of the most effective forms of recycling of capital is in water infrastructure, because water is wealth.” As with everything else, it’s all about the money.

Previous reports, such as one completed by the CSIRO in 2010, have found that very few sites are suitable or near locations where there is likely to be significant demand for water.

Capturing and keeping streamflow in northern Australia is difficult. Most of the rainfall occurs near the coast where it is mostly too flat to build dams. Capturing water in valleys doesn’t overcome the problem of evaporation unless the dams are very deep. Consequently, large scale dams (like Lake Argyle) that can provide year-round water are not likely to be feasible for most of the north.

Mr Joyce rejects that, however.

“I disagree with some of the issues that CSIRO have reported in the past, that you couldn’t have any more irrigation capacity, because it was manipulated by the [then Labor] government in such a way as the report was confounded.

“It had to come out with that sort of recommendation because the government put so many caveats on things that you weren’t allowed to do,” he said.

Concern about equity in decision making, the health of land, river and sea environments, Indigenous livelihoods, security, infrastructure and social wellbeing are no longer important in discussions revolving around gigalitres of water, hectares of land or tonnes or dollars of production.

Northern Australia is characterised by high year-round temperatures, a distinct seasonal rainfall pattern, some of the greatest rainfall intensities in the world, large inter-annual variability in rainfall and large evaporation rates.

The lack of rainfall during the dry (winter) months means that irrigation is essential for cultivated agriculture or perennial horticulture during this period. The strong seasonal component to rainfall and the high evaporation rates in northern Australia mean that a greater volume of water (between 20 and 80%) is required to irrigate a given area of perennial pasture in the North than in the South.

Large variation in flow from season to season and from year to year requires that sizeable storage structures would have to be built to accommodate volume fluctuations and meet demand of permanent settlements and irrigation during the dry season unless suitable groundwater resources are available

40% of Australia’s total potentially exploitable water is located in northern Australia. If all of this potentially exploitable water was used for irrigation, 20 to 25% of Australia’s irrigation by area could theoretically be located in northern Australia. In reality, however, the maximum area under irrigation will be significantly less than this (est 60,000 ha) when environmental, social, cultural and other values are considered in the water allocation planning process.

While these estimates suggest that from a purely water volume point of view there is potential for additional irrigation in northern Australia, efforts towards achieving and maintaining sustainable irrigation in southern Australia will continue to be central to Australia’s long term irrigation future.

Sustainable irrigation with groundwater in semi-arid and arid zones will require a recharge area that is several orders of magnitude greater than the irrigated area. If groundwater is developed in these arid zones, it may be very challenging to maintain existing ecological values.

Because most rivers in northern Australia are ephemeral, perennial rivers have high ecological significance. Any extraction of groundwater from these systems will most likely result in a reduction in streamflow at some point in time. The impacts of these reductions and whether those impacts are acceptable is a key management question.

Experience in northern irrigation schemes, e.g. the Ord and Lower Burdekin, illustrate that failure to manage deep drainage accessions will result in irrigation-induced salinity. In the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia groundwater levels may seasonally fluctuate by as much as 10 m. These seasonal fluctuations are considerably greater than those experienced in irrigation districts in southern Australia.

The Coalition want “A food bowl including premium produce which could help to double Australian agricultural output”, but history shows us that previous attempts have been largely unsuccessful.

The Ord Irrigation Project has cost over a billion dollars over 60 years, with no cost benefit analysis.

Cotton thrived between 1963 and 1974 but insect pests required millions of litres of pesticides and when the government removed price subsidies it collapsed.

Rice came and went for similar reasons with magpie geese blackening the sky and closing the airport so thick were the numbers.

Sugar came and collapsed when production failed to meet anywhere near the amount required to keep the mill viable and the price collapsed.

Buoyed by the potential of new varieties in 2010 farmers planted the first commercial rice crops in the region for 30 years. After two promising years the fungal disease rice blast was discovered rendering the crops worthless.

Similarly driven by strong global prices a number of farmers grew cotton last year but cold weather reduced yields by half and a wet picking season further reduced production.

Neither rice nor cotton will be grown again this year.

The Ord now hosts the largest commercial Indian Sandalwood production in the world covering more than 60% of the land under cultivation, and has supplanted melons, pumpkins, chick peas, bananas and so on. This is a tree that takes 14-20 years to maturity and provides nothing edible.

Whether it be tax zones, or dams, or food bowls – forget the science, forget the experts, forget the environment, forget the lessons of the past, and the traditional owners – what Gina wants, Gina gets.

More great reading from Kaye Lee:

Hi ho, Hi ho….where am I spose to go?

It’s all about the choices you make

My kids are ok, yours can go beg.

War games


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  1. Pingback: What Gina wants, Gina gets | OzHouse

  2. Clare De Mayo

    Next they’ll be talking about the great inland sea. If it wasn’t so serious it would be laughable.

  3. Sir ScotchMistery

    I know two things Gina Rinehart doesn’t get now, hasn’t for a l long time in one case and never will in the other.

    Sex and why we can’t stand her bullying.

  4. Kaye Lee

    In 1954, after some experimentation by CSIRO and based on previous successful rice crops, a joint Australia-U.S. company called Territory Rice Ltd. was formed with a plan to irrigate the subcoastal plain of the Adelaide River in order to commercially produce rice. The plan was a complete failure due to several factors, including an invasion of geese, soil that was too saline and an insufficient amount of drainage, all combined with poor management. They gave up the land to the government in 1962.

  5. Kaye Lee

    I feel sorry for Gina.

    Gina thinks that she has bestowed great wealth upon Australia, rather than the other way round. She truly feels she should get the kind of respect, recognition and influence that is commensurate not so much with her wealth but rather her contribution to the nation’s prosperity.

    At a party celebrating the 50th anniversary of Lang’s discovery flight, Gina proposed a toast to “the individual who has contributed more to this country than any other single person I know of – to Lang Hancock”.

    She gave a scathing character evaluation of her own children John, Bianca and Hope, who she said had neither “the requisite capacity or skill, nor the knowledge, experience, judgement or responsible work ethic” to become trustees of their own inheritance.

    She also fought with her father when he married his housekeeper. Hancock had become “the subject of dirty old man jokes from one side of Australia to the next”, wrote Rinehart, and risked being “wiped out financially by a manipulating Filipino”. Hancock responded:
    “As for the children being ashamed of me, I think they are more likely to feel more embarrassed by being picked up from school by a young mother who has let herself go to the point where she is grossly overweight … If you won’t consider my well-being, at least allow me to remember you as the neat, trim, capable and attractive young lady of the Wake Up Australia tour, rather than the slothful, vindictive and devious baby elephant that you have become. I am glad your mother cannot see you now.”

    Gina and Rose then fought a legal battle that lasted 14 years.

    Gina is also having a legal battle with her children. She didn’t go to Bianca or John’s weddings.

    In the late 1990s, she settled out of court with a former security guard, Bob Thompson, who had filed a sexual harassment suit against her. “She’s just incredibly lonely and isolated,” Thompson told Woman’s Day.

  6. Ian

    That book should have been called:
    Northern Australia and then some: Changes We Need to Make Me Richer.

  7. Ian

    Oh Kay Lee, I’m old enough to remember the Humpty Doo “miracle.” I was a wide-eyed primary school boy, and remember thinking ‘what a silly idea – it’s so far from everywhere else.’

    Well, transport costs have more or less cancelled any problems with transport, but with my growing maturity has also come an understanding that there were other, much more intractable problems than distance that caused it to fail.

  8. Chris Skinner

    We can learn from the past, we can use sustainable development, in fact, a lot of such development has already occurred in the Darwin and Kununurra hinterlands. Some of Georgina’s ideas are very good, such as reducing taxation and having an entrepot, these were what fueled Singapore and Hong Kong. The cost of living for the quality of goods and services is currently horrendous and is definitely impeding growth, especially for Darwin.

  9. Stephen Tardrew


    Oh boo, hoo, hoo!. The suffering of the super rich is so sad.
    Lets make the homeless, benefit-less unemployed donate a dollar a week for her families rehab.
    It’s al so sad the way her kids are ripping her off.
    What is this Alien V.

  10. Kaye Lee

    Chris I agree there are opportunities in the North but I don’t see irrigated agriculture being a huge part of that. Tourism must be protected. Recreational and commercial fishing. Defence if we must. Research…. education perhaps? More could be done with the beef industry maybe?

    There already are zone tax rebates for remote areas and I am not inclined to ask companies to pay even less when we all know they manipulate finances to avoid paying what they should as is.

  11. kathy lee

    gina is delusional, and so is joyce. one huge resource the arid areas of northern and central Australia has is sunshine. surely that can be put to use somehow.

  12. corvus boreus

    I suspect, given current priorities and levels of adherence to sustainability and transparency, the focus of ‘northern development’ proposals regarding ‘water relocation’ would be directed towards primary resource extraction of metal and fuels, to the enrichment of the usual domestic magnates partnering foreign speculators(some of them very nasty).
    By the way,
    A personal curse on this day,
    To chris berg of the IPA,
    for proposition 77
    on your kook’s wishlist list;
    an end to governace,
    through elected representation.
    Choke on your own lardy jowls,
    you anti-democratic sucker-fish.

  13. Kaye Lee

    The one that really hit home to me on Berg’s wish list was…

    73 Defund Harmony Day

    Why? How much can it cost for kids to dress up in rainbow colours and tell the story of their heritage at school?

  14. corvus boreus

    Proposal 101; Instate a national Cacophony Day, honoring bigotry and ignorant opinion.

  15. Stephen Tardrew

    They have all gone too far. They are not fit to hold positions of power as they form a coalition of greed and self interest while emasculating the lives of the working class, aged, poor, disabled and underprivileged. These are cruel and heartless people hiding behind a veneer of respectability however the mask is slipping as the cyclops of greed emerges to lay waste to our culture of justice equity and a fair go.
    They are enraptured with their own narcissistic image of benevolence while they lay waste to democracy. The time for sweet talk is over. These people are economic terrorists with little or no regard for human suffering and inequity. Many of our corporate leaders and politicians have taken step beyond the boundary of democratic cooperative mutuality falling into a morass of self-interest greed and disingenuous self-justification. No more. No more. We need you no more.

  16. Stephen

    The author of this article fails to mention the alp policy at the last election. Why? No wonder zero credibility.

    As for feeling sorry for Gina, don’t. She wouldn’t have ever heard you or this this site so feel sorry for those that need help and actually help. Whinging about bipartisan policy never helped anybody.

  17. MichaelFeeney

    Another great article Kay Lee,
    The abominal libs do have a sense of humour.Don’t believe me? Check out J Bishop’s responce on “The Project”,about DeCaprio’s
    speech at Dohar,about Great Barrier Reef. MessBishop wanted to know what scientific qualifications he had to speak of such things.When I stopped laughing,now can’t stop crying,of coarse any person not in the deluded lib/murdoch camp cannot voice any opinion contrary to their buffalo s#@t. Mssrs Joyce,Truss,Hunt,etc or any other members of their climate denial ,budget story b..s..t
    throwing mob just would never see the joke of any of their lot,asking any person about their quals. M Feeney

  18. corvus boreus

    I’m with Stephen,
    you don’t mention labor’s mess in every article,
    there’s no bolt or ackerman sermonising,
    you print letters from different opinions
    your sport section sux,
    and there’s no advertisements for prostitutes.
    No credibility at all.
    I’ll stick with junk news to go with my junk food, thanx.
    ps, nice of you to support brett’s bullshit whinge in the hi ho article, stephen.

  19. Kaye Lee


    I feel sorry for many people I don’t know personally. Gina seems a very sad and lonely person who thinks money equates to happiness. She thinks every problem can be solved with a cheque.

    Yes I am aware that Kevin Rudd said he would cut company tax in the NT. There were many things I disagreed with when he started to try to outlow Tony. However, the Coalition is in government and sooner or later you are going to have to give up on the “Labor’s mess” mantra and start looking at our current government.

  20. corvus boreus

    I feel sorry for Gina because she was sired and raised by a racially genocidal redneck who played feather-duster games with the maid and called poor Gina an “indolent, vindictive and devious baby elephant”.
    That shit has to leave some scars.
    Her own subsequent conduct has somewhat diminished my levels of sympathy.

  21. Kaye Lee

    And in the ultimate insult, the illegitimate kid allegedly fathered by Lang with housekeeper was christened Georgina.

  22. Kaye Lee

    Always worth remembering where Gina came from

  23. Anomander

    I for one can’t fathom how the New England electorate managed to leap from a man like Tony Windsor to a complete lunatic like Bananababy Joyce at the last election!

    Sure, I know many of their allegiances lie with the Nats, but he’s a fruitcake of epic proportions.

  24. Anomander

    Wow! Thanks for that video Kaye.

    Gotta love the language; assimilated, no good half-castes, do-gooders from the South, hybrids, mostly white, savages, uncivilised.

    That was only 30 years ago and I’m sure many of those opinions still persist to today.

    I am utterly speechless.

  25. Kaye Lee

    “FEDERAL Member for New England Barnaby Joyce believes the construction of the shelved Apsley River dam would deliver jobs, zero-emission electricity and much needed water for the Murray Darling Basin system.

    He said the Apsley River project, east of Walcha, had been identified by the NSW Electricity Commission in 1983 to supply water for hydro electricity generation. The project also had the capacity to lift water back across the Dividing Range by way of a series of tunnels and pipelines to put water into the McDonald River which would then flow into the Murray Darling Basin.

    Mr Joyce said the original report prepared for the Electricity Commission and confirmed by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation gives the Dams’ committee an almost shovel ready project which could be fast-tracked.

    According to the report, the estimated cost of the Apsley River project in 1983 was $1,063 million.”

    Barnaby wants to reject reports from the CSIRO from 2010 in favour of something from the Electricity Commission over 30 years ago. What would a billion in 1983 dollars equate to now?

  26. Zathras

    A tax-free northern economic zone was one of Big Daddy Lang’s dreams.
    So were the suggestions that we should dope aboriginal waterholes and use nukes to build deep water ports in WA.
    There seems to be a fine line between being a visionary and being barking mad.

    Also, the problem with creating some sort of “food bowl” in northern Queensland is that, despite the availabilty of water in the area – diverted or not – the soil is far too impoverished and would need vast amounts of conditioning to make it viable.
    It’s just not economically feasible.

    The trouble with these pipe dreams is that they are given consideration only because of the financial and political influence of the dreamer.

  27. Matters Not

    “…a poor dried up land afflicted by fever and flies and fit only for a college of monks whose religious zeal might cope with the suffocating heat and musketos (sic) which admitted no moment of repose.”

    So said Flinders all those years ago. And his observations still ring true today, although if he was still alive his “college of monks” would have an additional adjective to read “college of mad monks”. BTW, it’s a great area to visit, made even better with a good 4 wheel drive.

    I note also that there was a Chinese proposal to develop the Keep River floodplain by using water from the Ord. It’d be a terrible pity because the Keep River has large deposits of Tofu, just like Lawn Hill in Northern Queensland. Nature at its best.

  28. Kaye Lee

    Ahhh yes…the Keep River, which will not benefit the Northern Territory in any way.

    “In the case of the Keep River Plain area being given over to a Chinese company to grow sugar no benefits as outlined above flow to the NT.

    Whilst the sugar would be planted, grown and harvested in the NT each of these functions are heavily mechanised requiring few workers.

    The cane would be transported to Kununurra for processing into sugar or bio fuel creating jobs in WA that would get the jobs incomes and the GDP increase.

    For all this to occur many hundreds of millions of dollars need to be spent clearing land, building roads, creating irrigation channels and preparing for cultivation.

    What is the NT Government expected to contribute to this Project?

    That the NT Government is interested in participating in this project and handing over the Keep River Plain is beyond doubt.

    In November 2012 the project was granted Major Project Status, and over $400,000 was allocated for the Ord Development Unit to pursue settlement of Native Title.

    What then is the view of the Native Title holders, a group who retain strong cultural links and association with their country?

    They are extremely concerned with the prospect of any development on the Keep River Plain that would change the country in any way.

    They hold a view that whilst much of the country was under pastoral use for many years the cattle themselves did not alter or damage the country.

    A large irrigation project carving country into lots with deep and wide irrigation channels carrying water from the Ord would in their view not just change their country, it would destroy the deep spiritual significance of the country, its dreaming track and its sacred sites, thereby destroying their intimate connection to it.

    As custodians of these sites which run through the Keep River Plain and the dreaming track which runs away to the south they would fail in their lifelong commitment to care for their country, its sacred sites and its dreaming track, if such a development was to occur.

    This failure to protect country would impact on tribes and clans away to the south who are connected through the dreaming track that continues through their country and it would be the Native Title holders of the Keep River Plain who would be held to account.

    So just why would the NT Government entertain participation given 60 years of consistent failure to develop a sustainable cropping industry from this irrigation scheme.

    Given there is no economic or social benefit occurring to the NT, given there would be enormous social and cultural damage visited on the Native Title holders of the Keep River Plain, and given that the NT Government has no money to contribute to the scheme it is totally irresponsible for the NT Government to be even considering participating in this Project.”

  29. Kaye Lee

    recent commentary from the company suggests a 10-year period until production.

  30. Cath Parry

    Well said Stephen Tardrew we need more people like you around to sort out the greed in our wonderful country yes time to cut out all the perks for the rich and not so infamous and for them to pay the same tax as their fellow workers

  31. Faye

    Cath Parry,There are a lot of people not just on here, that have great input.
    Bit biased of you hey.

  32. John921Fraser


    I'm always concerned that Gina looks like she is going to eat Barney.

    Fortunately Barney is a devout catholic.

    But 17.7 billion is an awful lot of dosh.

  33. John921Fraser


    "Stephen" & Stephen Tardrew.

    2 different people.

    By a long shot !

  34. Matters Not

    it’s been a few years since I was in that part of the country (Ord River and surrounds including Keep River). Then and probably as now, water was extremely cheap. So much so, water was sprayed constantly during the day leading to massive loses due to evaporation. But they didn’t care It didn’t matter how much you used, the cost was the same.

    But all this ‘bad management’ is coming home to roost with significant changes to the water table. One has only to look at what’s happening to the Murray Darling ecosystem to realise that Nature can be very unforgiving.

    I link because it’s worth a read.

    The Northern Myth – Chapter 1

  35. abbienoiraude

    Ah saw that Chris Berg person on morning telly the other day. So THAT is who he is? Wow he is bloody game showing his ugly mug on a news programme.
    What makes him so special, so able to influence Australian Govt?
    He looks and sounded like a privately educated nonce who has too much ego for such a little mind and a smaller heart.

  36. John921Fraser


    Prime Minister for Women.
    Prime Minister for Infrastructure.
    Prime Minister for Conservation.
    Only a matter of time before we have Gina Rinehart as "Australian Mother of the Year".
    Dame Gina of Iron.

  37. John921Fraser



  38. Matters Not

    abbienoiraude, Chris Berg is a ‘regular’ on The Drum both on TV and in print. While he is ‘bright’ his real power comes from his employer the IPA. That organisation’s tentacles are everywhere. They even have a well known subsidiary. You might know of it. It’s called the Australian Government.

  39. Stephen Tardrew


    What Next?
    Of course!
    Pig Iron Slob.

  40. corvus boreus

    For an insight into reasons for the depths of loathing the name Chis Berg generates;
    Google the “institute of public Affairs” or IPA.
    Search for their ‘be like Gough, 75 ideas to radically transform society’ wishlist.
    There is a supplementary list of 25 more ‘bright ideas’.
    Consider the social ramifications of the agenda.
    Be aware, it may make you very angry.
    (Sorry, too stoopid to do the link thing)

  41. Keith

    I like the bit where the Koch brothers are asked about having a debate about climate change; they declined on the basis of not having expertise; yet, they spend millions on anti climate change propaganda.

  42. Kaye Lee

    Great link thanks Keith. A MUST watch!

  43. Terry2

    Big challenge confronting Queensland’s democratic arrangements and the rule of law following the decision by the Deputy Premier to back date legislation to make illegal quarrying, in the upper reaches of the Brisbane River, legal retrospectively and in the process overrule the responsible department who were in the process of bringing action against the quarrier who is a large Liberal Party donor.

    Watch this space, or don’t…….

  44. xiaoecho

    “Northern Australia and then some: Changes We Need to Make Our Country Rich” Our country??? The amoral mole doesn’t even live here. She lives in Singapore to – wait for it – MINIMIZE HER TAX.

  45. Oxley

    With Barnaby in charge of the ‘Stop the Rivers’ (100 Dams) programme we have to worry. His first nominated dam, and of course in his own electorate, is the Apsley Gorge dam proposal south east of Armidale. He is obviously spoiling for a fight because that seems likely what he will get with Apsley; first it is in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park and second, that it is World Heritage listed.
    So Barnaby has certainly lead with his chin and might be advised to get some advice from his side-kick, Senator Colbeck, who recently unsuccessfully sought to delist part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area to allow logging.
    Barnaby has also proffered that the Apsley Gorge dam will generate ‘zero-emission electricity’; wrong Barnaby, this project was designed as a pump storage hydro which means that it would exist only to store surplus electricity generated by coal-fired power stations at night. NOT ‘zero-emission’, in fact very inefficiently produced coal fired electricity. And this is the Minister charged with presenting dam proposal priorities to the Prime Minister.
    Looks like Barnaby will be off to Germany in 2015 to plead his case to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for delisting of part of a wild rivers section of Gondwana World Heritage Area to allow construction of a dam that generates ‘zero-emission electricity’ – produced by coal fired power stations!

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