PETER SMALL. A Royal Commission on the Murray-Darling.

In response to an excellent article by Michelle Pini “Something stinks in the Coalition and its not dead fish” Pearls and irritations 18/01, I posted a comment. “Yes a Royal Commission with forensic capacity to peel away each layer of vested interest. Politician, scientist and industry”. Sounds a bit rough on scientists but let me explain……..

I like many Australians have a passionate interest in water, droughts and our great river systems. Born in 1941 and living the first decade or so of my life at Birchip in the Victorian Mallee I remember the last of the 1940/45 drought. Droughts were severe and dusts storms are indelibly etched in my mind. One dust storm I remember my mother having to follow the hose to find the apricot tree she was watering in the back garden. And the excitement when we were able to access the Warranga Channel, (Goulburn system) to fill our dry farm dam previously fed from the weak Lonsdale Channel (Grampian’s system). 

So the first thing to understand is that the run of seasons from the Federation drought 1897 for around 50 years to the breaking of the 1940/45 drought in 1946 were below the long term average and consisted of droughts that could go and did, for several years.

These dry times, including long periods of hardship; – the first and second world wars and the great depression precipitated a great rush of dam building across Australia in the 1950s and 60/s. These dams came on stream during the beginning of a cycle of wet years from 1946 to 1996. The droughts we did have were one year events, 1967 and 1982 followed by a bumper year the next! An abundance of stored water lead to an over allocation across the whole river systems. And now having returned to a dry cycle that could go for decades yet, our river systems face disaster!

It is the failure of scientists to research climate cycles and their failure to adequately explain to the community and to the communities elected representatives the reality of climate cycles that I hold them culpable. It is easier for most to blame Co2 and global warming probably as that is where the research dollars are located!

So failure to understand that long cycles of wet, eventually turn dry and one day wet again, is I believe the underpinning issue that has led to the over allocation of water to our irrigation systems since the 1950’s. This has now been compounded by John Howard’s water market, environmental flows and in more recent time the corruptness of our political class. All these issues I could write about at length. However a poorly informed community, is I believe the route of the problem, and thus my inclusion of scientists with politicians and industry as being culpable! 

Peter Small.

Farmer, Coleraine Victoria.

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