Leading article Australia

Our farmers have few friends

7 December 2019

9:00 AM

7 December 2019

9:00 AM

Yet again, David Flint has shown that despite being an inner-city dwelling, softly-spoken, smartly-groomed, elegantly-dressed emeritus professor of law and weekly Spectator Australia columnist, he is more in touch with the concerns and plight of the average hard-working, coarsely-spoken, drought-affected, blue-vested truck-driver or despairing farmer than any single politician in the Canberra bubble. As a cavalcade of dusty, dirty, diesel-fueled, carbon-emitting trucks and their angry drivers descended on parliament this week to protest about the insanity of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (catch-cry: ‘Can the Plan!’) the theme was one that came straight out of David’s weekly columns on our inside back page: namely, this is the ‘politicians-made’ drought.

For several months now, Professor Flint has been writing with increasing urgency on the need for the interests of struggling Australians working the land to take precedence over the ‘environmental’ (ie ideological, left-wing, bureaucratic) usage of our most precious commodities, water and land.

That Australia, the nation built on the sheep’s back and the farmer’s toil, should prioritise flushing out swampy, salinated marshlands and gaping carp over the irrigation necessary for us to become ‘the food bowl of Asia’ shows just how feeble of mind and spirit our political leaders have become.

As Professor Flint wrote in his column of November 23, the Murray-Darling Basin Plan – incredibly – does what the Constitution specifically forbids, restricts farmers’ rights  to the ‘reasonable use of the waters of rivers for conservation or irrigation’. Indeed, at the most important session of the 1898 Federation Convention, one quarter of the Founders’  time was spent on knotting out this very issue into what is section 100. That section was turned into a dead-letter by the usual suspects. It was done without the consent of the people and probably, without even their knowledge.

That the usual suspects include former water ministers Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Burke should come as no surprise to anyone. To compound the fiasco that is the MDBP, Mr Turnbull’s merchant banker-inspired act of separating water from land and thus enabling crippling water speculation, stands as a second great betrayal of the Australian farmer. As David wrote in his column of October 26, Not content with creating a speculators’ paradise on the backs of farmers, the politicians invented sacrosanct ‘environmental flows’ which run though farming land unused and which must flow out to sea.

This follows the calamity that Flint refers to in another column, which occurred when [farm] land was turned into totally useless carbon sinks so Canberra could tell the UN they’d reduced CO2 emissions.

The betrayals are manifold. Flint despairs of the un-Australian regime under which all Australian farmers are now forced to operate. As if they were in some communist ‘peoples republic’, they are watched through satellites by the environmental secret police. And, in South Australia, farmers are now being bribed to fill in their dams. Aided by federal grants, contractors are offering those who keep their dams, the free installation of ‘low-flow bypass devices’. These strictly limit the amount of water that can come into their dams. If farmers refuse, they’re told they’ll have to pay for them when they’re soon made compulsory.

And who can forget, as Flint reminds us, farmer Dan McDonald who fed his starving cattle with his own mulga. As any Australian would ask, what’s wrong with that? He was prosecuted and fined an unbelievable $110,000. This persecution by the environmental secret police is constant and appallingly un-Australian.

All of which begs the question: where on earth were the Nationals and the NFF when all these obscenities were being passed into law?

Let’s also not forget how almost a decade ago, the supermarkets, led by Coles… decreed that a litre of milk would be sold below the cost of production, $1. The farmers would bear the cost of bringing the customers in. And, politicians have ensured that Australia will soon be a net importer of often inferior food, as they have already with fish. What is to be done? Professor Flint offers many solutions, including a People’s Constitutional Convention (his speciality, after all) to fix the many disastrous misuses of federal power; the development of the Bradfield Scheme and others to harvest water; and the scrapping of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. And he heaps praise upon Pauline Hanson (alone among political leaders) for actually being engaged in the issues and above all broadcaster Alan Jones’ for his Herculean efforts to assist drought-affected families.

So in these dreadful times, the farmers can rest assured they do have at least a handful of true friends. Now, if only the pollies would start listening.

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