The Coalition has conjured up a great policy idea and Tony Abbott should latch onto it. He’ll be damned if he doesn’t.
Of course, there are a few practical issues with the opposition’s draft plan to build up to 100 new dams across the country. The cost could be astronomical – approaching the levels of Labor’s National Broadband Network. Well, about half the cost of that actually, but it’s still a hefty price tag.
There are also environmental concerns to consider. No construction project should proceed if it will bring undue harm to the environment. Green groups will undoubtedly protest loudly against any dam proposals.
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Last Thursday, I visited a slum in Vasant Kunj, on the south-side of New Delhi, to see a water project which is being supported by AusAID, Australia’s overseas aid agency.
To see taps running when we turn them on is a basic reality in Australia which we rightly take for granted. Yet, in a community where this is far from a reality, it is astounding to see how profoundly water affects every aspect of life.
In the slums of Vasant Kunj, and across many large cities, meeting the need for water is fulfilled by a daily government water truck which delivers free water to the slum community.
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This weekend art lovers in London have an exciting new exhibition to experience. The new show is either one of the best art installations ever or the worst idea since Piero Manzoni decided to buy some cans.
Given the typically grey and gloomy weather forecast for the UK’s capital, anyone visiting the Barbican Gallery’s new show may struggle to notice the difference between the installation and the streets outside.
That’s because the exhibit recreates a typical autumnal day in London, employing 2500 litres of water to create: The Rain Room. Yes, you read that right - a gallery in London has created a room where it never stops raining.
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Here’s a new way to overcomplicate life: go to a café to drink water.
At least that’s what Adam Ruhf, the co-owner of New York City’s first “water café” is hoping.
He’s spruiking freshly filtered tap water, guaranteed to be sifted of any nasties in fancy glass bottles with clean blue labels. One cup will set you back $US1. More if you choose to add a selection of vitamin supplements for an extra “health boost”.
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One day, Gina Rinehart is projected to be worth $100 billion. In the past, I’ve argued she should use a big chunk of that money to do something grand, like fund an entire Aussie space program.
So imagine what two particularly philanthropic Ginas could do if they both decided to invest $100 billion into Australian infrastructure.
According to reports this week, during secret mining tax negotiations the day before he was knifed as Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd struck an in-principle deal with mining exec Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest that would’ve allowed mining companies to avoid liability for the 40 per cent mining tax by instead writing off their capital expenditure on Australian infrastructure. Estimates suggested the plan would’ve pumped at least $200 billion into Australian infrastructure every five years. A huge deal for the country.
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Australians do not need to be told that today is World Water Day to remember that water is both a giver and taker of life. This is the driest populated continent and we know well the impact of both floods and droughts.
But how many people are aware that billions of people across the world still lack access to a hygienic toilet, a tap and soap? Or that the failure to provide sanitation and safe drinking water causes about 4000 children to die every day?
The preventable diseases caused by poor sanitation cause more child deaths than malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS combined. Almost one in three people live in unsanitary conditions.
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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.
Many of us learnt at school that the great Nile River sustained Egypt through floods that nourished the fertility of the river’s floodplain.
Our Murray and Darling Rivers are no different.
It’s in Australia’s national interest to protect and restore the Murray Darling Basin. Disconnect the river from the floodplain and you destroy the fertility of the land.
It’s official. The water quality in Gladstone Harbour is fine despite one of the world’s biggest dredging programs. Sick fish are getting better, there are no health problems and the three week fishing ban over 500 sqkm of waterways has just been lifted.
Apparently more than 20 fishermen who presented with serious infections and skin lesions after coming into contact with what they claimed to be infected fish and contaminated water are mistaken.
Queensland Seafood Association president and cardio-surgeon Dr Michael Gardner doesn’t think so but swimming in the harbour has also been officially sanctioned by State Government authorities and all the kids who had to pack their fishing rods away during the school holidays can dust them off and get back out in the harbour while the dredging continues as part of a program to move 46 million cubic metres of silt.
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Is it un-Australian to be scared of the ocean? If so, I’m a traitor of the worst kind.
As New Year’s Eve countdowns by carefree, salt-encrusted water rats echoed around our beach resorts, I was thinking of the Poseidon Adventure: “... five, four, three, two, one, Happy New… Oh, Christ, a tidal wave!”... and the passengers who are having the most sex, drinking the most, laughing the loudest and having all the fun die horribly.
Aussie surf champ Stephanie Gilmore considers the sea a refuge from nutcases with iron bars - but really it is a cold and forbidding place.
I just returned from almost three weeks in Hong Kong. It is a city that I fell in love with some five years ago when I worked there with Oxfam Hong Kong.
There is a great deal that Australia’s major cities could learn from Hong Kong: it is a city that promotes and rewards efficiency, cleanliness and creativity – aspects that we often neglect.
This is clearly evident in the integrated design of the public transport system that is regular, clean, safe and on time. (Please note NSW State Rail Authority: the definition of ‘on time’ does not change at regular intervals but is kind of set). For example, last Saturday I missed a bus – my irritation was subdued when I informed the next one was ‘four minutes’ away. We can compare this to the two-hour gap between busses on the 370 route between Leichhardt and Coogee which I was faced with only a week later: and this is in the eastern suburbs if Sydney – the best served public transport corridor.
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Independent MP Tony Windsor yesterday continued what is becoming a pattern of rather cryptic and fencing sitting statements.
He told The Australian that he wasn’t sure he supported the Murray Darling Basin plan to buy back 3000-4000 gigalitres of water from irrigators, and that perhaps the Government should look at other methods to return water to the system like diverting water from other areas.
This is a perfectly legitimate stance, although it was his other comment about the likelihood of any legislation on the plan succeeding in Parliament that is confusing. Windsor told The Australian and later the ABC that he didn’t think any legislation would see “the light of day” in this Parliament:
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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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Australia’s population will be a major issue at the coming federal election. Not just because of the ongoing problems with Labor’s border protection laws but because Australians are increasingly concerned with the sustainability of our country.
Last year in a rare moment of clarity the Prime Minister made very clear that he ‘believed’ in a ‘big Australia’. He made these comments on the day that his government announced its population target for Australia of 36 million by 2050
Barnaby Joyce dug himself so much deeper into his I wipe my bum with the productivity commission hole today that it’s in danger of collapsing in on top of him.
The ABC’s Samantha Hawley this morning took apart the new opposition regional development and water spokesman limb by limb in an interview on AM.
You can listen to it here. Warning, you might be hiding under your desk by the end.
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Will 2010 be the year that the prime issue facing most women and girls in developing countries earns the recognition and action it deserves?
Water, toilets and hygiene - there can be nothing more basic than this.
And yet these issues continually slide from the political priority list and lack the funds and action required to change this awful reality, mostly borne by poor women around the globe.
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It is an absolute tribute to the men and women who built the Snowy Mountains Scheme that their engineering marvels continue to supply drinking, irrigation and environmental water to two million people who call the Murray Darling Basin (MDB) home.
Because if it wasn’t for the man-made miracle that is the Snowy Mountain Scheme, the only thing coming out of many taps in the MDB would have been dust.
Permanent plantings of citrus, stone fruits, grapes and the myriad of fresh food that lands on our table would have been wiped out. Whole communities would have had to pack up and leave and the environment would have worn the full fury of Mother Nature with death a daily reminder of the power of the weather gods.
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In a move reminiscent of John Howard’s “headland” speeches ahead of his successful 1996 campaign, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott last night delivered the first of his direction statements ahead of this year’s poll. And he adopted a decidedly green hue, saying it was time to scotch the misnomer that conservatives could not be good environmentalists.
The speech contained two policies - the national takeover of the Murray-Darling river system and the creation of a so-called 15,000-strong “Green Army” - and a promise of more to follow, with Abbott conceding he did not yet have a finalised position on carbon emissions but would do so within the fortnight.
The first policy should have Kevin Rudd worried as if he had been acting as a decisive national leader he would already have stepped in to wrest control of our biggest river system off the squabbling states. The second policy seems more a bit of gimmickry - and expensive gimmickry at that, with a potential bill of up to $750 million to send 15,000 environmental fix-up folks into the bush at $50,000 a pop.
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In their haste to get an agreement on national management of the Murray Darling Basin Kevin Rudd and Mike Rann quite literally sold the dream.
Now, as Mike Rann realises the deal he signed has left the Southern Basin high and dry despite floods flowing into the system up north, the South Australian Premier has been left so impotent that all he can do is write a letter to the Prime Minister.
It is reminiscent of the satirical movie Team America: World Police who lampooned former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix over his incapacity to bring North Korea to heel, with his character saying:
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The propensity for us ascribe days to inanimate objects seems endless. Some of the more obscure that we’ve encountered recently include ‘Picnic Day’, ‘World TV Day’ (which coincidentally shares a day with ‘World Hello Day’, one promoting socialising and one well…not), ‘Lefthanders Day’ and everybody’s favourite, ‘International Talk Like a Pirate Day’.
So it would not be out of the question to, upon hearing the words ‘World Toilet Day’, shake your head, perhaps laugh, and turn the page, or click the link for Laser Hair Solutions in the right side panel (because this site appreciates the plight of the left hander when designing web content).
All jokes aside, World Toilet Day is an internationally recognised and significant promoting a critical issue for 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty. It is the lack of safe toilets. We know the solution and we have the technology to simply, effectively and practically make a difference, all we need is the will.
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“Have you seen any good examples of greenwash lately? It seems to have died down hasn’t it?”
This question was put to me by a newspaper journalist recently.
That’s the thing with greenwash, it’s hard to spot if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Greenwash is a term given to marketing claims that suggest a product or company is more environmentally friendly than it actually is. The Trade Practices Act forbids misleading claims. But it’s sometimes difficult for investigators to spot, let alone consumers. That’s the problem.
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A serious, if unintended problem has emerged from the last changes the Parliament made to the Family Law Act.
The changes were designed to improve shared parenting, but the safety of the child was meant to take precedence.
However it seems the courts are interpreting the changed law to mean that the right of the non-custodial parent to know the child or children is of greater consideration than the safety of the child.
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.
Read all about it
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