Friday, February 13, 2009


While I have nothing to add to the discussion of (a) whether or not Nick Xenophon has made a tactical blue in holding the whole country to ransom and (b) whether or not his proposal for throwing money at the Murray is a sound one, I would like to say that I am getting very sick of the way the situation is being discussed around the traps.

In particular I am very bloody annoyed by the ignorant rubbish about South Australia, including a usually highly respected political blogger using the word 'parochial' as a synonym for 'not from the Eastern states', something one more usually associates with Victorian football commentators. I am also gobsmacked by the number of bloggers and commenters who appear to think that the health of the Murray-Darling Basin doesn't affect anyone except South Australians.

Sounding off about it here is preferable to getting into it with the bully boys of the blogosphere, the mildest of whose responses would be something along the lines of 'Oh but you would say that, wouldn't you.' (One of these days when I'm feeling strong I'm going to write a long post about the tactics men use to argue with women online; the application of the word 'shrill' to any woman who disagrees with you about anything -- or talks at all, really -- is a particular favourite and that's only the tip of a very dirty and debris-studded iceberg. But I digress.)

The Prime Minister has been heard more than once to express the opinion (before he was elected, naturally) that South Australia was a waste of space, so if he pays any attention to Xenophon you can be sure it won't be for the benefit of South Australians, the vast majority of whom have until recent times loved and relied on the river.

But if successive federal governments of both stripes hadn't spent the last few decades ignoring the warnings and pandering to the blood-sucking bottom-feeding river-murdering Eastern States irrigators who have been draining the river dry upstream in order to grow climate-inappropriate cash crops like rice and cotton (and indulging in said pandering simply to secure strategic votes and to hell with the health of the biggest river system in the country), it would never have come to this in the first place. Xenophon is just a great big Greek chicken coming home to Canberra, after many years, to roost.

UPDATE: it's through (well, as good as) -- and Xenophon has secured some dosh for the river. Looks like a sensible win-win compromise to me -- independently of whether any of it is a good idea ...


scientician said...

I would just like to say I've been following your blog for a while and I think you're great. I particularly like the comments with regards to the way arguments occur online. Thanks for providing me with a great read.

Alexis, Baron von Harlot said...

I'm quite a fan of the idea of wealth distribution, but the $950-for-all (well, not quite all, but many, including me) worried my socks off. It's a lame and temporary and ineffective form of wealth distribution, doing nothing to address the long-term causes of poverty. It's tantamount to handing several billion dollars to Coles-Myer & Co. Except for the very poor, who will spend it on things they really need, it's an inducement to consume things we don't need. Economic growth is conditional on our buying more, and more and more. There's a clear correlation between overconsumption and the general stuff-uppedness of the world's land and air and water.

It might be possible to formulate an environmentally sustainable semi-capitalist economy, maybe, but I ain't seeing moves towards that happening. And we're certainly not getting any closer having a government that chucks dollars at its citizenry with exhortations to betake itself to Kmart.

If economies must be stoked, then spending on infrastructure - including doing something about the Murray, including doing something that addresses the long term causes of poverty - seems the best way to do it. Even if economies don't need to be stoked, when our bridges are all broke, we should be fixing them.

Deborah said...

I've lived in South Australia for 14 months now, and I've become deeply cynical about the Federal government's approach to the Murray-Darling. I'm starting to think that when I get to cast a vote in Senate elections, I will be looking for people who are prepared to hold the government to ransom over the Murray-Darling, on behalf of South Australia.

Grumble, grumble, grumble...

I'm with you on this one, PC.

Mindy said...

Xenophon did well on the 7.30 report last night, although he obviously hadn't heard the latest unemployment figures with SA leading the charge. I suspect he might be negotiating today. I hope something gets through.

Strangely enough here in NSW we blame Qld for taking all the water, mostly Cubby Station which I think might be foreign owned. God, now I sound parochial.

Armagny said...

I know I had a bit of a snark at him over on mine, but there is much in the gist of your counterview here, especially at the meta level as you put it, that I can't argue with.

While I don't like the particular route he's taken here, in the big picture I'm going from being an avowed centralist to thinking this country needs a fresh settlement of the federation, especially after the work choices case.

It simply isn't sustainable to have all the big decisions for a country this size made by a small portion of 300,000 people sitting in an outer suburb of Sydney.

Anonymous said...

What she said!!! from an ex-South Australian.

Growing up in SA, my wonderful and eccentric friend Annie Taylor, who became a visual artist, developed a deep love of the Coorong. She'd go and camp there alone. In 2002, she died of cancer, and to this day I can't help wondering "Maralinga?" (She also loved, and spent much time in, the desert.) *Adjusts tinfoil hat* If she were alive today, she would be gutted, absolutely gutted, at the state the Murray mouth is in today. Her mum, an indefatigable birder, would be gutted too.

clarencegirl said...

"But if successive federal governments of both stripes hadn't spent the last few decades ignoring the warnings and pandering to the blood-sucking bottom-feeding river-murdering Eastern States irrigators who have been draining the river dry upstream in order to grow climate-inappropriate cash crops like rice and cotton (and indulging in said pandering simply to secure strategic votes and to hell with the health of the biggest river system in the country), it would never have come to this in the first place."

Agree with you!

However, Senator Xenaphon knows full well that the money he has blackmailed the Rudd Government to get is not going to make it rain hard enough or long enough to create sufficient water flows into the river system to save the lower half of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Nor in the face of the drying of the southern part of the continent is that money going to produce enough water for the river from government-funded water saving measures undertaken by irrigators.

We have all stuffed up big time and the Murray-Darling as our great-grandparents and grandparents knew it will never return.

And yes, I'm well aware that the environmnetal health of the Murray-Darling river systems affects more than just South Australia.

Anonymous said...

Well said PC.

I'm a Victorian with a healthy regard for many things SA. I had thought that the Murray was an Australian asset, much as the GB Reef is. And Vault is. Well, I had to reprah-zent for Melbs.

On the brief reading I can make, Xenophon is not/has not been unreasonable, and as you say, it's a good result all around.

I too am very much looking forward to the long form piece on discussion "tactics".

TimT said...

Well heck, I'd probably choose parochial Xenophon over parochial Harradine anyday!

Anonymous said...

PC, you rock.
Wrote long comment about: my opinions on Mr X; this weird idea about the Murray; and also some things I read last night prolly on the same blogs you were reading. But goodness me, what a lot of words it was.

GS said...

Xenophon was a lesser of evils when it came to holding the baby on this one. I'd choose the Murray-Darling any day over what Fielding could have held us to ransom with!

lisette said...

to grow crops like rice and cotton in this continent was always wrong-headed and now it is just immoral. you can see the country crumbling as the decision makers and influencers mince around and tuck their toes in rather than make a strong decision

Anonymous said...

Having seen the ruthless harvest, trapping & pumping of every last skerrick of runoff into Qld farmers' dams before it can reach any of the MDB creeks & rivers, I get a bit riled whenever I see Xenophon being accused of opportunistic parochialism.

I don't think many South Australians comprehend the extent to which they are being fucked over by the Eastern states. Think about it - SA has the exceptional mineral riches of Roxby Downs & Prominent Hill, yet by the standard measures of economics it is easily the poorest & most disadvantaged mainland state in the nation.

Although Xenophon's actions this week might not be beyond criticism, there's a tangible sense in which he has attempted to redress an imbalance. I can't imagine Dunstan or Playford would have sat on their hands in the face of a comparable political opportunity.


lucy tartan said...

good good good post. If I can be shallow and flippant for a minute, I admit I got a bit of amusement out of observing (via the ABC's cunning edits) the hunted / cunning expression on Xenophon's face in the Senate yesterday. But I certainly think he did a good job, no damage to the stimulus and he did exactly what he was elected to do - represent the interests of his constituents and NOT be bullied by the majors.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

'the hunted / cunning expression on Xenophon's face'

Heh -- that's what he usually looks like! But he is quite fearless about trying to get what he wants, as South Australians already knew from his longstanding anti-pokies campaign. He has some sort of heart condition, so I do worry a bit about the effect that his new status and the way he will feel compelled to play up to it are going to have on his health.

Scientician, thank you for those kind words; will attempt to maintain standards. Alexis, re stimulus package -- I don't have an opinion on this because I don't understand the thinking behind it, but it must be said that Apple, Optus, Panasonic and a local electrician have all benefited from my share thus far. Helen -- yes, the Coorong is a tragic sight (and smell) these days.