Murray Darling Basin Debating Terms

Those of us who care about Australia’s future (sustainable) productive capacity,must beware of being lulled into a “negotiating stance”. If we believe, as I do, that talking about reduced extractions in terms of absolute numbers which relate to the maximum (100% allocation) figures applicable to Licenses, (7000 or 4,000 or 2,800 GL) is meaningless, then we should refuse to debate/discuss in those terms.

Even high security licenses require allocations. It always seems to me that if less water is to be extracted, it is the seasonal allocations which should be addressed not the licenses on issue. One view is that if allocations are more generous (when there is adequate water) as a consequence of there being fewer licenses in operation, then nothing is saved. Almost no one seems to accept that buying licenses in, say, drought times when allocations are nil, is buying phantom water. The Bureau of Stats. figures for extractions in the MDB show clearly how extractions drop in drought years when allocations are constrained.

We should constantly make the point that in a highly variable water flow situation these numbers are meaningless and are irrelevant to actual extractions and their environmental impact. By way of example, another 10,000GL extracted this year would have had bugger-all impact and would have been flood mitigation positive. In one of the recent drought years it would have been intolerable.

One needs to constantly go back to the objective. Healthy rivers and wetlands (which includes being occasionally impacted by our irregular, but much too frequent droughts); responsibly high levels of production as we meet our moral obligation to provide food (and fibre) for a hungry world; etc.

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