Murray-Darling Basin Update 2020

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Murray-Darling Basin Update 2020: Cry Me a River by Margaret Simons


Introduction

Since I wrote my article The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe, which has attracted attention and good feedback, the problems with the Murray-Darling have become even more prominent.

The issue has risen in the public consciousness because of prosecutions of cotton growers in the northern basin, more evidence of corruption, criticism of government waste of money, many more articles on different aspects of the Murray-Darling Basin in newspapers and more stories on Australian ABC radio and ABC TV.

Publicity that water entitlements in Australia, based on 2018 figures, are 10.4% foreign-owned and that Chinese interests own 1.9% (with the USA about the same and the UK 1.4%) has recently enraged people against China on Facebook. Publicity that most water entitlements are owned by large agribusinesses, those with the deepest pockets, and those whose crops make the highest profits has never gained the same traction.

Concern about the Murray-Darling Basin, however, appears to be growing.

Margaret Simons has written an excellent Quarterly Essay called Cry Me a River in 2020, which has ignited more public debate on the Murray-Darling Basin, even under the Covid-19 crisis and lockdown.

The remainder of this article concentrates on Margaret Simons’ essay. I can’t summarise the essay here and I assume most of you haven’t read it. Nevertheless, I think you’ll find the information contained rewarding. It may also inspire you to buy or borrow a copy of the essay. Cry Me a River is the most current, clear and detailed overview of the Murray-Darling Basin crisis currently available.

I hope you have at least read my article The Murray-Darling Basin Catastrophe, which is a succinct 3500 word description of the tragedy!


Quarterly Essay Background

We live in an environment, where I’d contend, there has been no clear political direction on a future for Australia in twenty-five years. The political class — particularly the conservatives — tends to obfuscate debate on crucial issues and to obscure prioritising on where the money is spent. The general media, which is in decline (and dominated by News Corp), doesn’t cover broad topics well or in-depth. The ABC, despised by conservatives, struggles on — despite ongoing funding cuts.

In this environment, Morry Schwarz and Black Inc. have introduced the Quarterly Essay (2001), the Monthly Magazine (2005) and the weekly Saturday Paper (2014) as independent commentary on deeper issues concerning Australia.

The Quarterly Essay is printed in a book-like size. Each issue comprises an essay of at least 20,000 words, which is followed by correspondence on the previous essay. Hence the correspondence to Cry Me a River is contained in The Curse of Coal by Judith Brett, Issue 78, 2020.

The quality of the writing in Quarterly Essay varies and one can argue that many essays are dominated by the ‘usual suspects’. Sometimes, one almost thinks that the correspondence is more illuminating than the essay itself, but not often.

Yet, as the Quarterly Essay describes itself: ‘It is the leading agenda-setting journal of politics and culture in Australia’, which means that it covers issues in-depth that don’t get covered elsewhere.

All three publications above, but particularly Quarterly Essay, should be read by all Australians, who care about a decent future for our country. While I don’t know the exact readership numbers, the Quarterly Essay says it has 6500 subscribers, distributes 20,000+ print copies and has 18,000+ digital newsletter subscribers. Sadly, not enough Australians are interested to read it.


Cry Me a River

Cry Me a River: The Tragedy of the Murray-Darling Basin by Margaret Simons, Quarterly Essay Issue 77, 2020.

Margaret Simons is an award winning free-lance journalist and the author of thirteen books. As preparation for the essay Margaret Simons undertook a long road trip from Queensland to South Australia through the basin. She conducted many interviews on the trip and interviewed some key people involved in managing the basin. Her essay provides a portrait of the basin and documents its woes. She shows why the tragedy has arisen over decades, but offers no solutions.

To Continue, CLICK HERE.

Posted in Canberra

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