You can’t blame the drought for corrupt water management.

No doubt by now you have all seen this photo, and others like it. That’s a Murray cod, like all its relatives it has survived droughts, damming of rivers, irrigation pumping and more. But this summer it died, along with thousands of other fish, because river flows in NSW are so depleted there’s just no oxygen left in the water.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/jan/07/hundreds-of-thousands-of-native-fish-dead-in-second-murray-darling-incident

Australians, or most of them, tend to go around with their heads up their bums most of the time, until a disaster grabs their attention for a few minutes. After a brief flurry of outrage and a bit of “they have to do something about this” comment on social media it’s all quickly forgotten. After the five seconds of outrage at least  45% of  Australians will keep on voting for the same conservatives who are responsible for the disaster.

The current crisis with the rivers in the eastern states has been developing for a few years now, but until this week’s fish deaths hardly anyone noticed or cared.

I blame it all on Barnaby Joyce, David Littleproud, their water-hoarding cotton-growing mates and above all, on the NSW government.

In this video Menindee resident Dick Arnold and Rob stand in the Darling river above weir 32 each holding a hundred year old fish. These Murray cod have lived through the highs and lows of this system however could not survive this man made disaster.

The NSW “Liberals and Nationals” government decided to reconfigure the Menindee Lakes last year. Part of the process involved the decommissioning of the pipeline that fed Broken Hill from the lakes. Instead of providing water to Broken Hill and Pooncarie, and a thriving irrigation farming industry, the water would be diverted to cotton farmers upstream. Many of those huge, water-guzzling cotton farms are overseas owned.

https://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/national/cubbie-station-still-80owned-by-chinese-company-ruyi/news-story/c7393ae7ffa19039cc09a78fa90f53bb

Others that are Australian-owned have had their CEOs charged with corruption.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-28/cotton-executives-20-million-fraud-allegation-norman-farming/10172736

The Menindee pipeline was to be replaced by a pipeline carrying water from the Murray River to Broken Hill. A pipeline from an already depleted river, placing more strain on a river already struggling to cope with demands on its flow.

Only a government as incompetent and as corrupt as the Berejiklian government could come up with such a stupid idea.

In 2017 Four Corners ran this program –

Pumped: Who’s benefiting from the billions spent on the Murray-Darling?
https://www.abc.net.au/4corners/pumped/8727826

As usual with exposes like this there was the usual brief spate of outrage and then everyone – or almost everyone – went back to sleep until this week, when all those images of dead fish were all over the media.

The Australia Institute didn’t go back to sleep. They produced this, in June 2018, on mismanagement of the scheme . Result? Crickets from those in a position to make changes.

The Basin Files
Maladministration of the MurrayDarling Basin Plan: Volume I
“Since allegations of large-scale water theft were aired on Four Corners in 2017, a flood of media reports have shown that the $13bn Murray-Darling Basin Plan is not being well implemented: agency coverups, political and regulatory capture, agencies with cultures of non-compliance, dodgy water deals, alleged fraud and unlawful amendments.”
http://www.tai.org.au/sites/default/files/P531%20The%20Basin%20files%20Vol%20I%20%20%5BWEB%5D.pdf

This file contains a huge amount of relevant links.

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan was yet another Labor initiative destroyed by the ATM government.

Residents of Walgett are living on the banks of a dry river. Water that would normally flow down the Barwon River, even during a drought, has been diverted and hoarded by upstream cotton mega-farms. They are relying for water on a rather dodgy bore that produces water too saline for drinking. The bore was taken out by a lightning strike a week ago and the residents had to go without any water at all for a day. That meant no air conditioning in almost 40 degree heat. Walgett residents use evaporative air coolers, they need water to run. No water = no air conditioning. I’ve lived out west, just under 150 km east of Walgett, , and I can tell you cooling is essential in summer out there. So is drinking water. The situation is so bad in Walgett that private citizens are appealing for funds to buy bottled water which they will drive to Walgett. The NSW government doesn’t want to know and won’t help.

You can’t blame Walgett’s water problems on the drought. You can, however, blame them on corrupt water management and on the interventions over the past five years of Barnaby Joyce, his successor, David Littleproud and the rotten-to-the-core NSW government, with willing help from the Queensland government. Littleproud, until his marriage fell apart, was married to the second cousin of one of the owners of Norman Farms, a cotton-growing mega-company and a very corrupt one. A responsible Prime Minister would never have made a man with such an obvious conflict of interest his Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, but Turnbull did exactly that. Morrison kept him in that position and gave him the added responsibility of  Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Drought Preparation and Response. Talk about putting a fox in the henhouse!

Meanwhile, much further south in NSW, the coal-loving NSW government is refusing to admit underground coal mines have been stealing Sydney’s water for years. ‘No place for mining’: coal mines drain water from dams.

https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/no-place-for-mining-coal-mines-drain-water-from-dams-20190106-p50pu3.html

Gas drilling companies across NSW and Queensland are still being given unlimited access to water, especially artesian water, and their drilling is damaging the Great Artesian Basin, but our governments, state and federal, just don’t care.

What will it take to make our state and federal governments wake up? When will they realise this is a very dry continent and our water resources are precious,too precious to be frittered away on industries we simply cannot support, industries like cotton growing and gas mining.

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FauxMo’s Dilemma

Katharine Murphy says she can’t fathom FauxMo’s embassy plans. She writes a long article trying to find an explanation and completely misses the bleeding obvious – FauxMo’s Pentecostal faith.

She says “Morrison, for the record, has said his view on the Jerusalem question is not influenced by his faith.”

FauxMo is not renowned for telling the truth, whenever he opens his mouth he lies, so why would we believe him on this? He just blurts out whatever he thinks will get him out of yet another self-inflicted crisis. He lies constantly. Not very Christian of him, but then he’s not a real Christian at all, just a member of a cargo cult church that preaches a dodgy prosperity gospel.

For FauxMo and his religious mentors and advisers it is religious doctrine to regard Jerusalem as the true capital of Israel. Pentecostal churches usually include prayers for peace in Jerusalem and the advancement of Israel in their Sunday services. I’ve never been to Horizon Church so I can’t say it’s done there, but I’d bet it is. It’s part of their belief that the Bible is the literal truth, they believe Jesus will soon return and reign in Jerusalem for a thousand years. For that prophecy to come about there needs to be an end to the strife in the Middle East and Jerusalem needs to be established as the accepted capital of Israel.

FauxMo is following his church’s beliefs with his loopy decision. The Wentworth by-election campaign allowed him to push forward his own religious beliefs dressed up as government policy. That particular belief, he thought, would go down well with Wentworth’s many Jewish voters (who are mostly rusted-on Liberal voters anyway) so his timing, to him, was clever. He forgot an important part of that particular prophesy involves the conversion of the Jews to Christianity. He, like his church and all other Christian churches, assumes that will be OK with them. Jews today see this doctrine as anti-Semitism and some regard it as something akin to the Holocaust. To this nation it looked like a desperate last-minute attempt to win a few more votes, which it was, in part. It may well have lost him some votes of former rusted-on Jews. Now not only is he in a very difficult place politically, he’s also in a very bad place with the leaders of his cult.

If he backs down then politically he makes a fool of himself and risks being accused by his enemies in the Liberal Party of allowing foreign powers to dictate Australia’s foreign policy. He will also anger his cult leaders, who have been crowing about his rise to PM as “God’s will” and rejoicing over having the first (and hopefully last) Pentecostal PM. Some have even gone as far as predicting doom and gloom descending on this country if FauxMo is not re-elected. You might remember this –
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/sep/07/darkness-coming-if-scott-morrison-not-re-elected-pentecostal-leader-claims

If he sticks with his decision he delays the signing of the FTA with Indonesia until, most likely, after the next election, when Labor will do it and claim all the credit, and he risks angering not only Indonesia but Malaysia as well. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has already warned our government that moving the embassy would increase the threat of terrorism in this region. Even worse, he destroys Australia’s international reputation, already running downhill fast because of the way we treat refugees and asylum seekers, and because of this government’s refusal to accept the science of climate change and reduce our emissions. Insisting the embassy be moved will cause a major international diplomatic crisis, something no-one in this government is capable of handling successfully.
https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/nov/15/malaysian-pm-warns-australia-moving-israel-embassy-would-add-to-terror-threat

Murpharoo tells us Pyne, Abetz and others have tried to explain FauxMo’s plan as part of a two-state solution, a plan to end up with two embassies, one in Jerusalem, one in Palestine. Sorry, Katharine, but FauxMo is nowhere near smart enough to have ever thought of that explanation, he’s just following the dictates of his church, his mentors and the RWNJs in his government.

Don’t forget, when FauxMo became PM he was immediately given a “wish list” of items that had been rejected by Turnbull and his ministry-

Soon after Scott Morrison became Prime Minister, he was presented with a policy wish list by Liberal senator Eric Abetz and other conservatives who had helped dynamite Malcolm Turnbull.

It included abandoning the Paris climate change commitments and moving Australia’s Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

https://outline.com/je5XDM

https://outline.com/tzRXVJ

If he wants to stay as PM he has to follow up these demands. Liberal PMs and leaders who do not do as they are told by the RWNJs are disposed of. Just ask Turnbull – it happened to him twice.

So, does FauxMo back down, save an FTA and avoid a diplomatic crisis or does he do what he always does, stick to his decision no matter what, causing a breakdown in relations with two (at least) important trading partners but staying in the good books of his church mentors and the extreme right wing of his own government? It’s a dilemma all of his own making.

 

“It’s a very pleasant island”

I thought we could take a close look at Nauru and totally destroy Abbott’s fantasy image of this hell-hole.

Abbott, unlike most politicians, has been to Nauru, in 2011. He knows exactly what it’s like, although how much he actually noticed while he was there is debatable. He certainly did not seem to notice the old Howard-era camp had become a primary school.

On a lightning trip to Nauru to inspect the detention facilities set up by the Howard government, Mr Abbott said the camp structures were ”sound” and a processing centre ”could be reopened within weeks”.

Last night Sam Dastyari explained the reason Nauru was chosen for off-shore detention – it’s about the worst place you could be.

Let’s see why.

First – the climate. 

Nauru is just a bit over 40 km from the Equator, so its very hot and humid. Right now, as I write, it’s 3.00 pm on Nauru, it’s 31C, the humidity is 68%.  It’s also raining. Daytime temperatures are usually in the 30C to 35C range, at night the temperature seldom drops below 25C.

When I got out of the plane, the hot weather slapped my face. I had this sinking feeling: “Oh, it’s the end the world and maybe the end of my world, too.”

Try living in a tent with 17 other people in weather like that, with only a fan to keep everyone cool. No wonder black mould is a big problem on the island.

https://theconversation.com/mould-levels-seen-at-nauru-detention-centre-are-enough-to-cause-serious-health-problems-92429

There are no seasons, just a monsoon season from November to February with the rest of the year usually dry. Droughts are frequent.

Water.

There are no flowing streams on Nauru to provide fresh water. There’s just a polluted freshwater lagoon, too contaminated for swimming let alone drinking,  and groundwater accessed by wells. Most of the groundwater is contaminated by seepage from the island’s septic tanks (there is no sewerage treatment facility) and by mining run-off.

The National Assessment Report (Republic of Nauru, 2004) identified the following threats to the quality of groundwater resources, including contamination by cadmium, leachate from rubbish dumps and sewage. Contaminants of concern include:

• Faecal coliforms and E.coli in soil / groundwater from septic tank overflow and soakage pits;

• Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) associated with the power station; • Metals (lead, zinc) associated with blasting / mining;

• Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) associated with storage and disposal of fuels;

Asbestos associated with building materials; • Ordinance compounds and heavy metals associated with historical bombing;

• A broad range of contaminants associated with fill materials of unknown origins;

• Cadmium from disposal of cadmium sludge associated with mining activities; and

• Leachate from uncontrolled landfill practices.

(If you have time, look through that entire report and see all the problems known to our government when they decided to re-open the detention centre. Further proof Nauru was chosen because it really is a hell hole.)

The rest is too salty to be drinkable. Locals rely on tank water. There are some desalination plants, but they are unreliable, expensive to run and eat into the island’s limited, imported fuel supplies. In the dry part of the year water restrictions are the norm and that applies to the camp as well. Mosquitoes breed in the swampy places and plague those in the camps.

In the camp water collected from roofs is used for washing clothes and flushing toilets. Drinking water is brought in by tanker from the desalination plants.

Food

Food supplies are a problem. Mention a Pacific island and you immediately imagine plentiful tropical fruit, loads of seafood, feasts starring meats and vegetables cooked in an underground oven like a hangi or an imu,  chickens, eggs, taro, and more. Well, Nauru isn’t like that. The island is mostly barren rock, as a result of mining. Food is imported and is mostly canned or processed. Fresh food is restricted to limited amounts of fish and, very rarely, fresh beef. All other fresh food needs to be flown in or brought by ship on weekly supply runs from Australia and is very expensive.

Recent surveys have highlighted the difficulty of growing fruit and vegetables, and the high cost of importing nutritious, fresh food aboard Nauru Airlines planes. “We have WHO standards like ‘are there servings of fruit and vegetable in the diet?’” Auto said. “But 95 per cent of Nauruans in that survey reported not having the recommended amount of vegetables and fruits.”

Beaches.

You think of a “pleasant island” in the tropics and you imagine beautiful beaches with crystal water, clean sand and probably some palm trees.

Not on Nauru.

Yes, there is white sand, and yes, there are palm trees, but the beaches are rocky and footwear is needed for safety. Anibare Bay is advised as the best beach for swimming,  it has fewer rocks than the others, it is not as safe as it looks. The water at the beaches is contaminated by E-coli. Locals become immune to this as children, but tourists and refugees just get sick. The most popular swimming spot seems to be the boat harbour, which is mostly enclosed, making sure those friendly bacteria get a better chance of breeding and getting inside you. Some beaches are decorated with rusting, discarded bits of machinery left over from the now all but defunct phosphate mining.

Health care. 

The Australian government has spent millions on upgrading the Republic of Nauru (RON)  Hospital on Nauru. We were shown photos of a new ward with a row of new beds, and told this is “state of the art”. Both Dutton and Abbott have told us facilities on Nauru are better than facilities in some regional Australian towns. This reflects poorly on both men. Facilities are nowhere near those in regional Australia, they are vastly inferior. There’s another issue with these lies. If they are allegedly “better” then what the hell has this government been doing for the last five years, to make our facilities worse than those on a rotting, corrupt Pacific island where anyone with anything worse than a stubbed toe needs to be flown to Port Moresby for treatment?

Refugees are treated differently to the local population. They are denied proper medical care. Many articles have been written about this, especially over the last few weeks. Look them up, I’ve already taken up far too much space to detail all the problems with health care.

And finally –

The government of Nauru, dependent on Australian funding, seems determined to cut off as much medical help as possible. This is beyond my understanding. Nauru depends on Australian money to keep the island going. Without the steady stream of funding the refugees bring the island would be unable to survive. It has no other means of support. There is no tourism, the place really is a hell hole. There’s no industry, no fuel to support any. There’s no water supply. There’s no food. Without help from the outside world Nauru would revert to a barren rock within weeks.It seems odd to me that the dictatorship masquerading as a government seems intent on killing off all the remaining refugees as fast as they can.