Governments created this Murray-Darling crisis

Governments created this Murray-Darling crisis, by Alan Moran.

The Murray-Darling is the only major region [of Australia] where irrigation plays a prominent role. …

Drought Minister David Littleproud is to meet farming representatives on Tuesday to discuss a fivefold increase in prices of Murray-Darling water. The minister attributes this to speculator hoarding together with another villain, climate change, which he says “is leading to hotter days, meaning droughts”. …

No, not climate change:

No, not speculators:

Independent ownership of water was facilitated when the ­rivers’ water was formally made tradeable in 2014 (before which trades were informal and ostensibly water could be owned only by the landowner).

Unless they are monopolists — and the sheer number of water owners makes this impossible — speculators simply respond to market opportunities. In this way, speculators perform a useful function in ironing out supply and demand imbalances and selling scarce supplies to those whose willingness to pay shows they need them most. …

Water falls out of the sky for free. Only government could stuff that up:

The real reasons behind the distress of irrigated agriculture are government policies that have ­reduced water availability.

Across the course of the 20th century, irrigation had transformed the Murray-Darling Basin from an arid region to one that produced more than 40 per cent of the nation’s agricultural output. …

Alternative uses were claimed in the 1990s by activists, calling themselves the Wentworth Group, whose members ­included Tim Flannery, David ­Karoly and Mike Young, the ­author of a column last week in this newspaper (“Drought of good ideas has drained water policy”). In addition to claims that irrigation was depriving natural vegetation of water, the Wentworth Group sought to wind back irrigation use on the basis of salinity with bloodcurdling claims such as “Salt destroying our rivers and land like a cancer”.

The fact is the Murray-Darling has become a working river. It ­experiences highly irregular annual flows of between 7000 and 118,000 gigalitres within an average 34,000GL. By 1997, dams along the system had ­allowed about 12,000GL a year to be granted to irrigators under levels of accessibility that vary with each year’s water availability. This not only brought the region’s agricultural bounty but converted a ­highly irregular river into ­placid waterway for tourists.

Wentworth Group activists ­recruited the ABC and other media as supporters in its agenda to reallocate the water flows from agriculture. In response, the Howard government bought up water from farmers for environmental purposes and, in doing so, set in place bureaucratic machinery that could readily expand the ­reallocation. This was tailor-made for the election of the Rudd government when climate change psychosis became the catalyst for further reducing irrigation water. …

Wimpy “conservatives” do the left’s bidding, under the direction of the ABC:

While making minor revisions, today’s federal government has accepted the thrust of the policy set up by its predecessor.