By Ron Pike

It was the succinct Ronald Reagan who gave us the quote:

“A Government Department is the nearest thing to eternal life we will ever see on earth.”

This quote became very relevant to me in recent weeks as I have been discussing the failed Murray-Darling Basin Plan with several members of Parliament and specifically with advisors to Federal Water Minister, Keith Pitt.

Here is a map of the massive Murray-Darling Basin:

Although there have been over 100 inquiries into this Government initiated disaster, all of them scathing as to what is happening with our water (including its sale to overseas entities) the Minister and the Government are still extolling its virtues, while most of the one and a half million inhabitants of the MDB believe it must be urgently overturned.

So how did we get to such an impasse between the Minister and the people he is supposed to be serving?

Although it was from the outset unconstitutional, the Federal Water Act passed through Parliament approved by both sides of the House without discussion in 2007.

This then led to the establishment of a new “Government Department” known as The Murray-Darling Basin Authority which the Government instructed to buy water from irrigators and return that water to “The Environment.” Over fourteen billion dollars has since been spent on this now failed exercise.

One would assume that this hastily assembled collection of water unaware bureaucrats would, before doing anything, ask several questions. Such as: What is “the environment?” Where does “the environment” preside? Does “the environment” need more water?

No such questions were asked, but if they were, these should have been the answers. The environment of the MDB covers all one million square kilometres of the catchment of the basin and no one square kilometre is more important than another. As to its need for more water, of all the precipitation that falls on this vast area around 83% soaks into the ground. That is “the environment” gets the first 83% of all the precipitation that falls in the Basin. Most of the balance flows into the creeks and rivers and some of this is conserved in dams and weirs built for that purpose. This stored water has been the basis for the growth of our world-renowned food bowl covering the Murrumbidgee, Murray and Goulbourn Valleys, with more recent developments in the northern Basin.

Faced with these facts the now 450-person strong Government Department needed to look for other reasons to justify their existence.

“There have been less floods since we built the dams” they cried. They again were wrong as detailed in this submission to the NSW Government.


It needs to be noted here that River Red Gums are flood tolerant and not flood dependant. In fact most of the artificial watering of these trees done by the MDBA has led to the trees dying.

Without the benefit of any due diligence or practical knowledge numerous further scurrilous claims followed, such as “lack of flow in the Murray is responsible for hyper salinity in the Coorong”. This claim has been totally refuted by historical records, not to mention the fact that water does not run uphill.

We need more flow in the Murray to keep the mouth open was the next claim, when what they are talking about is not the mouth of the Murray River, which is at Wellington, where it has been for the last thousand years or more. In the last two years over ten million megalitres of fresh water has been flushed out what is no more than an estuarine opening which affects nothing whether it is open closed or anything in between.

The result of this at best naïve and at worst deceptive policy is that across the Basin we now have near empty dams, failing rivers and farmers and their municipalities without water.

All of this has been made known to Minister Pitt and copied to the PM. As there has been no response from either I charge the Minister with failure to act as a Minister. That is a failure to serve the people, which is what he swore to do.

I confidently predict that unless this Government Department is put to death, something Reagan believed was near impossible, it will cause the death of the Morrison Government.

Ron Pike.

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