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Tag Archives: Barnaby Joyce

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

Dam(n) the nation, full speed ahead!

barnaby

Photo: Barnabyisright.com

In 2011, Gina Rinehart flew Barnaby Joyce to India in a private jet, to watch the granddaughter of her business partner marry in front of 10,000 guests. Three months later, the GVK conglomerate bought a majority stake in the billionaire’s ”Alpha” coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin for $US1.26 billion.

In November 2012, Mrs Rinehart published a book called “Northern Australia and then some”, calling for the development of the North and the establishment of a Northern Special Economic Zone (SEZ) with lower taxes and a reduced regulatory burden. The publisher’s summary of the book states:

“The world is full of areas where we have beggars sitting in mountains of untapped ‘gold’. Rinehart’s message is a call to release the untapped human and economic potential through respect of the human right to free enterprise and private property.”

It sounds uncomfortably like Gina wants to abolish Native title so she can have unfettered access to those “mountains of gold”.

In February 2013, the Coalition leaked a discussion paper called Developing Northern Australia: A 2030 Vision which very closely echoed the views expressed by Gina in her book. Tony Abbott called for a “national imagination” to take advantage of the “enormous agricultural potential” of the Top End, including harnessing the “bountiful supply of water”.

He then travelled to Kununurra to stand on the wall of Australia’s largest dam and further discuss a one-third expansion of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme. His focus included “natural resource development in liquefied natural gas, mining and agribusiness” – some key users of water – with little mention of truly utilising natural advantages of the north.

It was ridiculed by Labor and the Greens, discredited by scientists, and generally dismissed as an ill-conceived thought bubble.

Tony Bourke said

”They say that they want to use them to avoid drought, they want to use them to avoid flood and they want to use them for hydro power. Now, if you want to avoid drought, you need to manage a dam that is always full. If you want to avoid floods, you need to manage a dam that is constantly empty . . . if you want to manage it for hydro it has to be constantly flowing.”

Gina Rinehart is part of an organisation called Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV). They describe themselves this way:

“ANDEV is made up of individuals and businesses in Australia demanding that our government welcome investment and provide economic vision for the country’s future. We want to unleash the potential of North Australia by getting government out of the way.”

In response to the Coalition’s paper, they revealed that they, in conjunction with the IPA, had been working on the exact same idea – go figure. On the same day that the leaked paper was first reported, ANDEV published a media release saying:

“The Coalition’s draft discussion paper on water management, reported in today’s media, is a welcome recognition of the important role dams could play in revolutionising Northern Australia’s economy, according to the Institute of Public Affairs.

“Australians for Northern Development and Economic Vision (ANDEV) have been calling for the creation of dams for over two years and it is refreshing for a major party to finally acknowledge the important role they can play in driving development in Northern Australia,” said Dom Talimanidis, Director of the joint ANDEV/IPA North Australia Project.”

They go on to say that

“The Coalition’s Draft Discussion Paper, Developing Northern Australia: A 2030 Vision received widespread support in the days after it was reported in the media. The Business Spectator praised the Discussion Paper’s vision and foresight here and here. The paper also received support from many groups in Northern Australia, including the Cairns Chamber of Commerce and Mt Isa Mayor and former State Labor MP The Hon. Cr Tony McGrady AM. The Daily Telegraph’s editorial noted America’s economic growth was driven by westward expansion and questions why Australia can’t achieve something similar developing the North.”

Notable for their absence from this group of advocates was anyone with a scientific or environmental qualification. Shortly after, the idea seemed to fizzle out under a barrage of expert criticism.

rinehart In April 2013, Barnaby Joyce and Gina Rinehart were both guests at the IPA’s 70th birthday bash. Mrs Rinehart later contributed $50,000 to Mr Joyce’s campaign to enter the House of Representatives, attended his election after-party, flew to Canberra to hear his maiden speech, and afterwards invited a small group of Coalition friends for drinks in her private hotel suite. Aside from Mr Joyce, these included some of Mrs Rinehart’s closest political friends, the Speaker Bronwyn Bishop and Liberal Party senators Cory Bernardi and Michaelia Cash.

Ever ready to push his benefactor’s barrow, we hear yesterday that

“FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has put dams back on the agenda by unveiling a Commonwealth ministerial working group to consider new options.”

The idea of developing the north is not new. The first Commonwealth parliamentary inquiry into the development of northern Australia was held in 1912. In 1934, J. A. Gilruth, published a “Confidential Report on the Northern Territory of Australia”. He believed that statements about the opportunities being neglected in the north could be traced to either (1) those who had read only the biased laudatory accounts, but wished for some‐one else to be the pioneers; (2) those who had an interest in land or a lease and wished to realise a capital gain; and (3) business people to whom any influx of population means a profit.

Tom Rayner, who works for Charles Darwin University as a Research Leader in the Northern Research Futures Collaborative Research Network, had this to say:

“As a nation, we have witnessed similar clashes between commodities, communities and conservation in the Murray-Darling Basin. As scientists, we have documented the effects of water extraction on floodplains, fish and forests. As farmers, we have experienced diminishing terms of trade and a transition away from the traditional family farm. As taxpayers, we have funded a multi-billion dollar rescue mission aimed at improving river health.

Now, staring down the barrel of a decade of rapid transformation, we confront a critical decision: “Is this a future we want to repeat in northern Australia?”

We know that dams damage rivers – there are literally hundreds of scientific studies detailing effects on connectivity, water quality and biodiversity. It is odd that, at a time when people elsewhere are discussing dam removal, we might want to build more.”

In 2009, the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce produced a report on the potential impact of new development in northern Australia on water balance and quality, the environment, existing water users and the broader community.

The report points out that the rainfall received each year already supports a wide range of uses. These include unique aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems; recreational and commercial fisheries and tourism that are based upon them; a range of largely non‐consumptive Indigenous uses; and consumptive use by irrigated agriculture, stock and domestic and mining. Water is critical to each of these uses, and increased consumptive use will involve a degree of trade‐off between new uses and the range of existing consumptive and non‐consumptive uses.

Conserving and accessing surface water for consumptive use is highly constrained by difficulties in impoundment and groundwater abstraction from one point may influence surface water flow and function at another, and vice versa.

The report also highlights the dangers to existing industries. Tourism, for example, contributes about $2,800 m p.a. to the northern Australian economy, and relies heavily on the largely pristine land and water of the north. Extractive industries such as commercial fishing (>$160 m) are heavily water dependent non‐consumptive uses of water. Opportunities available to these industries would be curtailed by significant consumptive water use or landscape modification. Changes to the natural resource base also impact the value of the Indigenous hybrid economy, upon which up to a third of the north’s population may depend.

Cultural life in northern Australia is extraordinarily dependent on the region’s high natural values. These, in turn, emanate from the intact landscapes and relatively undisturbed flows of the north’s waterways. Development can directly reduce these values by depleting water, reducing water quality or by changing the natural flow of water in the landscape; all of which impact aquatic, marine and terrestrial environments. Development can also indirectly and inadvertently impact these. Roads, for example, can disturb the flow of water across the landscape, altering connections between waterways and floodplains that support communities of vegetation, fish, birds and mammals. The impacts of development on the natural environment are varied, and many are persistent and difficult to correct.

In this, like so many other of this government’s decisions, we seem to be ignoring research and the lessons of the past. A new study from Oxford University has found that the vast majority of large dams around the globe are unprofitable undertakings as a result of exorbitant cost overruns, with actual costs exceeding original estimates by around 96 per cent on average in real terms.

“We find that even before accounting for negative impacts on human society and environment, the actual construction costs of large dams are too high to yield a positive return,” the study said.

Already, the climate in the north is hot and alternates seasonally between arid and very wet. Small areas of arable soils are interspersed with large areas of land suitable only for grazing. The low fertility of soils and the high risks of climatic adversity (floods and cyclones) are major constraints to crop production. Management systems to prevent soil erosion are critical due to the high intensity of rainfall.

Climate change will lead to sea level rise and potentially greater storm surges which will impact on coastal settlements, infrastructure and ecosystems. Some areas will be vulnerable to riverine flooding and more intense cyclonic activity.

In Darwin the number of days over 35 degrees Celsius is expected to increase from 11 per year currently experienced to up to 69 by 2030 and up to 308 by 2070 without global action to reduce emissions. Coupled with the extremely high humidity that Darwin experiences during the wet season, higher temperatures are expected to adversely affect levels of human comfort.

Projections indicate there may be an increase in the proportion of tropical cyclones in the more intense categories, with a decrease in the total number of cyclones. For example, the number of category 3 to 5 cyclones is projected to increase, and by 2030 there may be a 60 per cent increase in intensity of the most severe storms, and a 140 per cent increase by 2070.

In these days of “financial distress” when we are being warned to expect a “tough budget”, it is somewhat incongruous that Barnaby Joyce is prepared to spend $30+ billion building dams to fulfil Gina Rinehart’s demands to develop the North, regardless of the countless studies that warn of the non-viablility of the idea and the damage it would cause.

The paradigm of the “empty north” was derived from colonialist thinking and rejection of Indigenous tenure. The idea of making it the food bowl for Asia, while ignoring the environmental and climactic challenges, could make it a very expensive exercise in futility. I know mining requires a lot of water but have you really thought this through? Is it too much to expect you to listen to scientists and to read the reports that have already been done? Messing with water can be a very dangerous thing and you probably need someone other than Gina to advise you on this.

Who do you admire?

You can tell a lot about someone by whom they admire. It shows their priorities in life.

An early influence was founder of the DLP party, Bob Santamaria. A staunch Catholic, who believed the Church had a role to play in governing the State, Santamaria was vigorously opposed to birth control and abortion and decried what he described as contemporary sexual decadence. He wanted to turn us into a nation of farmers and cottage industries, with women permanently barefoot and pregnant. He was convinced that Australia was under threat from Communism, warning people that communists in Australia were buying up arsenals and guns in preparation for the revolution, and likening the Vietnam War to a crusade.

In a speech in 1998 Tony Abbott described Santamaria as “a philosophical star by which you could always steer” and “the greatest living Australian”. Abbott has said that what impressed him about Santamaria was “the courage that kept him going as an advocate for unfashionable truths”.

And then we have Cardinal George Pell, the man who has been complicit in the cover-up of child sexual abuse for decades, actively assisting pedophile priests in avoiding prosecution. Pell told a World Youth Conference that “Abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people”. Like his spiritual advisor, Tony Abbott also assisted a pedophile priest to avoid punishment by writing him a reference.

In recent days, Tony Abbott again defended Pell’s actions saying “Cardinal Pell is a fine man . . . Cardinal Pell is one of the greatest churchmen that Australia has seen”.

In April this year, Tony Abbott expressed his admiration for Rupert Murdoch, the man whose media empire illegally hacks phones and bribes officials as standard practice. Murdoch has said power is his aphrodisiac and he revels in manipulation of public perception and his role in bringing down governments.

Abbott described Murdoch as Australia’s most influential businessman going on to say “Along with Sir John Monash, the Commander of the First AIF which saved Paris and helped to win the First World War, and Lord Florey a one-time provost of my old Oxford College, the co-inventor of penicillin that literally saved millions of lives, Rupert Murdoch is probably the Australian who has most shaped the world through the 45 million newspapers that News Corp sells each week and the one billion subscribers to News-linked programming”.

Tony also greatly admires Gina Rinehart, the woman who sponsored that fruitcake, Lord Monckton, to do a speaking tour on climate change denial. This is a woman who makes a million dollars every half hour but cannot afford to pay the mining tax, and who wants a special tax zone in the North so she can pay even less. At least nine Coalition MPs have declared in their register of interests that Ms Rinehart has supplied free travel, hospitality and accommodation and she donated $50,000 directly (and up to $700,000 indirectly) to Barnaby Joyce’s campaign to win New England.

As Tony Abbott said, “Mates help each other; they don’t tax each other”, and Gina must be well pleased with the fruits of her investment so far, with the mining and carbon taxes about to be repealed and the biggest coal mine in Australia getting fast-track approval already.

And let’s not forget John Howard. Tony considers himself Howard’s protégé and longs for us to return to those halcyon days. This despite the fact that Howard’s government has been identified by the IMF as the most wasteful ever, whose middle class welfare and tax cuts for the wealthy have saddled us with a structural deficit, and whose sale of assets cost us billions in future revenue. Howard lied to take us into a war that cost billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives. He lied to us about the children overboard affair. Eleven of Howard’s Ministers either resigned or were sacked for indiscretions and many more were forgiven for their conflicts of interest and rorting of entitlements, a practice which this government seems to also enjoy.

Tony Abbott told his former leader and mentor John Howard on election night that he was the only person he could turn to for real advice in his new role as Prime Minister. That may explain Tony’s view that climate change is crap and that we should spend whatever it takes to stop the boats.

On the international stage, Tony has expressed his admiration for Japan (don’t mention the whales), and Indonesia (doing a great job there in West Papua), and Sri Lanka (hey shit happens . . . what’s the odd kidnapping and torture between friends . . . need some gun boats?). He loves America and China so much that he wants their corporations to be able to sue us if we hurt their profits with health, safety, competition or environmental laws.

Add to that the fact that Tony’s Chief of Staff not only makes policy decisions, she now also dictates who the public will have access to and what they may reveal. I call it pleading the Morrison Amendment – say nothing that may incriminate you. And we have Tony’s chief strategist and PR guru entering the world of foreign affairs and diplomacy by comparing Indonesia’s Foreign Minister to an aging porn star. These are the people who run and advise our government – the Star Chamber.

So, in summary, our PM admires staunch Catholics, power, wealth, big business, climate change deniers and all world leaders with whom he can have a photo taken. He prefers the advice of advertising spin merchants and power brokers to that of experts.

If you care about other people, that’s now a very dangerous idea. If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. Maybe you can become rich, but you don’t care whether other people’s kids can go to school, or can afford food to eat, or things like that. In the United States, that’s called “libertarian” for some wild reason. I mean, it’s actually highly authoritarian, but that doctrine is extremely important for power systems as a way of atomizing and undermining the public.”

  • Noam Chomsky “Business Elites Are Waging a Brutal Class War in America”.

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