|Issue No. 156
|11 October 2002
Work and the Meaning of Life
Interview: The Wet One
Bad Boss: Like A Bastard
Unions: Demolition Derby
Corporate: The Bush Doctrine
Politics: American Jihad
Health: Secret Country
Review: Walking On Water
Poetry: The UQ Stonewall
Month In Review
The Locker Room
Direct Voting Rights
Iraq is a Gobalisation Issue Too
Letter to George Dubya
WTO and Schools
Letters to the Editor
Who Is Farmhand?
Is Farmhand nothing but a cynical exercise to try and blackmail the bush into approving the full sale of Telstra?
Ray Martin: 'The Farmhand Foundation will give all the money raised this month, hopefully more than $20 million, to bush families who are hurting right now. As well, these powerful Australians hope to radically shift government policy on water resources: make a move at last towards drought proofing this wide brown land.'
Kerry Packer: 'I don't think it's possible to drought proof it. But I think we can have a say in it, and I think it's possible for this country to be a lot better drought proofed than it is at the moment.'
A Current Affair 3 October 2002
The first aim of Farmhand is obvious. Raise some money and give it to farmers in the bush to help them financially. However the second aim of Farmhand "To radically shift government policy" and "drought proof the country" sounds highly suspicious. How can we drought proof the country? According to Alan Jones,
Alan Jones: 'It's not that we don't have water, but we don't have it where it's needed. And how many hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars have gone in futile drought relief, which does nothing to ensure we won't be back on that track again. For example, Lake Argyle in Western Australia releases 50 tonnes of water per second. Only 10% is used in the Ord irrigation system. 45 tonnes per second is pushed into the Timor Sea.
Today 4 October 2002
Alan Jones: 'The Clarence River: Grafton's on the Clarence. The Pioneer River: Mackay's on the Pioneer River. Bundaberg, the Burdekin River. All those rivers up there. The Daly, they can all be turned inland and used. And then you can flood your river system in drought time. Dam the water. Flood the river system. Irrigate off the rivers.'
2GB 22 July 2002
Changing the way a river flows is an expensive exercise. Where is all the money needed to do this scheme going to come from?
Alan Jones: 'Now if we're going to sell Telstra, shouldn't we be saying to the farmers listen: let's sell Telstra, it won't cost you a thing. We'll use the money from the sale of Telstra: $10 billion, whatever we need, to water Australia. Give us a call 131 873 is my open line number.'
2GB 22 July 2002
Alan Jones is the chief spokesman for Farmhand and even if this is his personal view, there are too many other people involved with Farmhand with Telstra connections for this to be a coincidence.
The Chairman of Farmhand is the Chairman of Telstra, Bob Mansfield.
It's principals are John Hartigan the CEO of News Ltd, Telstra's partner in Foxtel. Kerry Packer the owner of Nine, Telstra's other partner in Foxtel. Sam Chisholm, chairman of Foxtel itself and Telstra director. Then ad man John Singleton, whose agency represents Telstra and who owns a share of 2GB. And Alan Jones, who is chief spokesman for Farmhand and whose breakfast show is sponsored by Telstra.
Media Watch 7 October 2002
Farmhand wants the full sale of Telstra and the funds used to drought proof the bush. With the board of Farmhand stacked with people who have connections to Telstra, it starts to look like an even bigger conspiracy. If these people can convince the Bush and the politicians that if the rest of Telsta needs to be sold, then the Bush can be irrigated and drought proofed with the funds.
The Government has not hidden its ambition to sell the rest of Telstra, however services in the bush has always been their main stumbling block. Now the country is experiencing its worst drought for 100 years, and this might just give the Government the opportunity it needs to force through the sale of the rest of Telstra without it (Telstra) needing to fix their services in the bush.
There is just too many things wrong with this plan. Not all farmers use irrigation from the rivers to water their crops. In 1999-2000 only 2.4 million hectares are grown by irrigation compared with 456 million hectares in agricultural production (ABS 2001). This means that only 1/2 a percent of our farmers are currently drought proofed. Sixty three percent of farms using irrigation are located in New South Wales and Queensland and most of these farms are located in the Murray Darling catchment area. Eighty nine percent are located in NSW, Qld and Victoria. Most of these farms are located on the one river system, and you cannot increase the number of farms in this region who are irrigating without doing major damage to the river systems
Another problem with irrigation is salinity. One factor contributing to salinity is the raising of water tables as a result of accelerated recharge of underground water from irrigated land , which results in increased salt loads entering river systems. Reduced river flows, brought about by the construction of dams, weirs and water diversions, compound the problem as there is inadequate flow to dilute the saline ground water inflows.
The decline in the river system where the water is being diverted from is yet another problem. After 40 years of neglect, the NSW and Victorian governments have only recently increased water flow down the Snowy River.
Other problems associated with irrigation practices include the decline in soil structure in intensely irrigated areas and a decline in water quality as a result of the high levels of fertilisers used in conjunction with some irrigation methods.
Greater efficiency and technological advancements should help to improve land management practices and reduce the decline in the health of land and water assets, but even if we can double the water flow and the amount of land that is used for irrigated farming, this will only account for 1% of total Australian farmland.
This could hardly be called drought proofing the nation.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2001, Agriculture, Australia, 1999-2000 cat. no. 7113.0, ABS, Canberra.
(Financial Review 4 Oct. 2002, p.48)
Media Watch (video recording) 7 October 2002, ABC television. http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/transcripts/071002_s2.htm
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