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An Independent Queensland Regional & Rural 

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(Cairns... Far North Queensland)


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I appreciate your interest in the issues that effect not only Queenslanders, but all Australians.

Please let me hear from you about your views on the issues that matter to your Family, your Community and your State.


Selwyn Johnston



One person, with the support of the community, can make a difference







For some 10 years now consecutive Labor Governments have sat on their hands in Brisbane and watched the gradual running down of the States infrastructure. At the same time it has watched an influx of some 1500 people a week move into South East Queensland and have gladly accepted the revenue from this influx in the form of stamp duties, taxes, fees and charges. 

There is no evidence that at any stage they took an overall view of the situation with a view to meeting not only the needs of the expanding population but the means of financing it, and the logistics of supplying it. Water is the most urgently needed right now but the failure applies across the board to hospitals, electricity, roads, transport and any number of other areas. 

With water it’s too late now to be corrected in the short term by the construction of infrastructure. In the long-term, yes, but the short term no! 

The retiring Minister for Natural Resources Mines and water, Henry Palaszczuk, who was responsible for water, should be concerned that it was he who produced a dissenting report from a Parliamentary Committee that otherwise recommended the construction of the Wolfdene Dam. But this doesn’t seem to be the case. In 1989 the Goss Labor government cancelled the Wolfdene Dam construction and of course reaped the short-term accolades. It is Queenslanders who will pay now. 

In the course of the 2006 State Election Campaign Premier Beattie visited the Lockyer, once the salad bowl for South East Queensland, and now an area that has been suffering from drought conditions for some 6 years. The Premier, naturally enough, expressed some despair that the drought had gone on for so long and suggested to the farmers of the area that he may have to pay them not to plant their crops. 

On the surface this seems an excellent idea but on more mature reflection there is obviously a need for caution on at least a couple of counts. 

Firstly, just consider how much would Premier Beattie pay farmers and how would it be calculated. There is of course no official word on this at this stage but any payment would have to be calculated on an open and equitable basis. It could not be based on income, as the great likelihood is that given the prevailing conditions in the area in recent years incomes would be minimal and a percentage of minimal, if any, isn’t much either. 

Secondly the payment in question is one of the lesser worries. Behind this payment, were it ever made, is a principle that could have long-term consequences. Both the cities and rural areas are short of water. Water sells in the cities for much more than it would bring for rural uses. Should farmers agree to release their water entitlement for city uses, or have it taken from them, for a payment, then there are a few things to watch out for. Once this precedent is set then we may not need a water crisis before the principle clicks in. 

Taking water from farmers is quite cheap compared to additional water infrastructure costs, both financially and politically, and consequently it could become the order of the day. So farmers should be well advised before they even consider this course or take the ‘thirty pieces of silver’. 

Thirdly, and this is common to all the infrastructure projects today, why would the Government build water infrastructure when both the State and Federal governments are so wedded to the concept of privatisation. Clearly the purchase of rural water at rock bottom prices and marketing it in the cities at a huge mark up must enhance the bottom line profit and so make it more attractive to multinational conglomerates when the sale time inevitably comes around, particularly if there is no extra infrastructure to construct or maintain. 

There is no doubt that all the utilities that we [the people] presently own, including water, will be sold off to multinational interests. We have seen our banks, Qantas and Telstra go already and water will definitely go as well if there isn’t a serious change of policy in Australia. Taking water from rural areas for sale at city prices is profitable and attractive to financial interests and of course once they get it we will have to pay whatever tariff they set. 

So all of us, particularly primary producers, had better be on our guard. The writing is on the wall. While the drought is a threat to primary producers it is an opportunity for Government. It will also be an opportunity for international finance, and they won’t miss it, or for that matter… us.


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Written and Authorised by Selwyn Johnston, Cairns FNQ 4870