Ratbags and the Basin Plan

Budget blather has shrouded this week’s best news: ‘The Murray Darling Basin Plan will be delivered’. For the 2 million people who live and work in the Basin and most of the other 23 million around the country who benefit from the Basin’s food and fibre production, it is cause for jubilation.

Multiple generations of indigenous people and several generations of pioneers, soldier settlers and migrants have been the Basin’s traditional friends and custodians. Regrettably there have always been ratbags in the ranks though. They lurk about in the form of lazy politicians and short-sighted developers posing as ‘irrigators’. Way back in the late 1800s these ratbags set about draining the Basin; winning seats in State and Federal jurisdictions across the Basin; legislating for unconstrained development and enabling complete avoidance of responsibility for themselves and their greedy mates. State Governments in particular gambled with the Basin, treating it as the planet’s only never-ending water supply.

The Basin had to rely on the true custodians to ring the alarm bells but even then, the ratbags managed to mute the bells for more than a century. It was not until January of 2007 that PM John Howard declared a new set of arrangements to manage the Basin’s triple bottom line. The millennium drought from 2000 to 2009 had pushed the Basin to the very brink of collapse. Thankfully the Plan was signed into law in December 2012 and the traditionals got to work on implementation. It is still an imperfect Plan. Nevertheless it’s a plan and it’s working.

The ratbag brigade is easily identified these days. They have similar markings to those in very large banks and corporations, insurance companies, churches, schools, unions and sporting codes. Predictably but regrettably, yet more of them have emerged with self-imposed titles like ‘esteemed’ and ‘concerned’. These tend to cluster at the opposite end of the ratbag spectrum. They have every right to express their points of view but extreme perspectives and bias make it difficult for the true custodians and the few true statesmen and women in Canberra to govern for the common good. Until this week’s good news, the Plan was back at the brink; having to withstand yet another well-orchestrated process of disruption.

Finally hammered out in December of 2012, the Plan must be granted the time necessary to deliver on the massive investment in knowledge and infrastructure on-farm, off-farm and everywhere in between.

Riverland Wine applauds the most recent accord between Minister Littleproud and former water Minister Burke to give the Plan a fair go, for the time being at least.

If the Budget blurred this week’s best news, read about it here https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/may/07/murray-darling-basin-plan-labor-to-decide-whether-it-will-back-key-changes

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