Today The Punch team has each selected two issues which get us hot under the collar, and which we feel deserve more airplay.
What are your thoughts on the issues we’ve chosen? And what other issues do you think we should all be talking about?
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After a wetter than average year in the Murray-Darling Basin many people seem to think the problems of Australia’s most important river system are solved. They’re not.
Rain and floods have returned life to many parts of the river system, but if they are to provide more than a temporary boost before the next drought hits, our federal Parliament will need to sign off on a strong Murray-Darling Basin Plan this year.
When I say a strong plan, I mean a plan that results in a river not poisoned by salt, that flows, that is alive. Anything less threatens the future of the river and regional communities, not to mention Adelaide’s drinking water. For too long we’ve been taking too much water out of the river – much of it for irrigated agriculture – for the system to remain healthy.
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The Murray-Darling Basin Authority Draft Plan, released yesterday, includes a reduction in water use of 2,750 gigalitres per year, compared to 2009 baseline diversions. So there will now be extra 2,750 GL/y in environmental flows. Does this give the right balance?
The candidates for the biggest loser are (1) the irrigators, (2) the Basin communities and (3) the environment.
The extra environmental flow is estimated to lead to a reduction in irrigated agricultural production of about 11%. But the irrigators won’t be the big losers because they will be compensated by the water buyback scheme.
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As far as political slogans go, “No Dams” had an absolute simplicity about it which resonated with the vast majority of Australians.
Despite the localised concerns of Tasmanians, some sympathy from blue-collar mainland communities reliant on industries such as logging, and the arcane constitutional quibbles of a few States’ rights enthusiasts, most Australians happily bought the clear message conveyed by the bright yellow triangular bumper sticker.
The Franklin River was saved. The year was 1983. Twenty-seven years on and it’s obvious that while “No Dams” might have worked as an effective call to arms, “Save the Murray” is struggling to get beyond being an empty slogan as the nation remains paralysed as to how we should save it.
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Later this year the South Australian Government is likely to announce the introduction of a weir at Wellington.
This is effectively a dam across Australia’s greatest river before it flows into the Lower Lakes in South Australia.
It would allow the Government to pump sea water into the Lower Lakes, a system that has been a fresh water environment for thousands of years – this is a decision that will be irreversible.
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