Monday, July 08, 2019

Corporations accused of misusing Murray-Darling Basin funds

A Four Corners investigation has revealed that taxpayer money, intended to help farmers recover water for the rivers and take pressure off the Murray-Darling Basin, is being used to expand irrigation capacity. More than $4 billion intended to protect the Murray-Darling Basin water system has been used by corporations to build dams to water cotton fields and nut groves. The largest operator, Webster Limited, has received $41 million which has been used to partially fund a $78 million capital works program to build dams that would store another 30 billion litre of water to irrigate cotton. “You just see dam after dam after dam, these massive on-farm dams, in a place that is as flat as a table, that just should not have dams,” said former director of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Maryanne Slattery. “And then when you realise they're being paid for by the Commonwealth, under a supposedly environmental program, that's just horrifying.” Webster Limited has released several strong statements denying any implied wrongdoing and accused the ABC of only giving the company two days to respond to questions. “This one-eyed environmental and social agenda, relentlessly pursued by the ABC, reflects ignorance and prejudice,” the statement said. 

A 27-year-old man has been killed at the Baralaba North coal mine in Central Queensland, making it the fourth mining death to have occurred in the state in the past six months. The Mackay district president of CFMEU mining and energy, Stephen Smyth, described the growing number of fatal incidents as a “safety crisis”, and said the union had only become aware of the incident on social media eight hours after it occurred. A second incident also happened yesterday, with a man in his 50s suffering spinal injuries in an accident at the Collinsville mine. Queensland mines minister Anthony Lynham said he was “extremely distressed and concerned” by the recent spate of deaths and would announce Government measures later in the week.   

UNESCO has added the Budj Bim Indigenous eel trap network in Victoria to its world heritage protection list, making it the first Australian site to be listed based only on its Aboriginal cultural importance. Traditional owners have been campaigning for 17 years for the 6600 year-old aquaculture site, which is older than the pyramids and Stonehenge, to be listed. “This is a very special day for our community,’’ elder Denise Lovett said. “This landscape, which we have cared for over thousands of years, is so important to Gunditjmara People.”  She said that “the decision also recognises Budj Bim’s significance to all of humanity” and the community was “proud to now be able to share our achievements and story with the world”. Being named to the World Heritage List provides recognition for the Gunditjmara people and increased protection for the site. It is also hoped it will boost tourism in the area for which the state government has announced it will build an $8 million visitor centre.

Yesterday marked the first day of NAIDOC Week, the annual celebration of the achievements, culture and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The theme for this year’s NAIDOC Week is “Voice. Treaty. Truth” - three key elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart - focusing on delivering First Nation Australians desire for “an enhanced role in decision-making in Australia’s democracy”. Events and activities are happening across the country.

The United States has taken out the women’s World Cup of football, beating the defending champion the Netherlands 2-0 in the final. US captain Megan Rapinoe scored the first goal in the second half via a penalty shot, with a second goal from Rose Lavelle confirming the win. Rapinoe was also awarded the Golden Boot, for scoring the most goals during the World Cup, and the Golden Ball, as the tournament’s best player. Staying in sport, Australia has thrashed England in the women’s Ashes, bowling out England for 75 in 32.5 overs. Australia is only two points away from taking home the trophy. Elyse Perry shone, taking seven wickets making history as she chalked up the best ever women’s one day international score. 

The broken pendulum
The pendulum that is used to predict outcomes in elections is broken. Richard Denniss on what this means and how it might change the role of money in politics, too.


“At the height of INXS’s commercial success, Hutchence was one of the few rock singers able to challenge Bono’s stadium-sized charisma, and his unashamed sensuality on stage and screen distinguished him from every other male Australian rock performer. He wasn’t blokey, but nor did he come wrapped in an aura of impenetrable, underground cool; ‘the language of his performance seemed to work everywhere,’ observes Lowenstein. To my mind, Hutchence is the only bona fide rock star that Australia has ever produced, and, given the shifts in popular music since INXS’s heyday – smaller sales, splintered audiences and rock’s not undeserved fade from prominence – he may well remain so.”


“Over all, the ANAO showed that over the five years from 2012-13 to 2016-17, Defence spent almost $112 billion on contractors, more than seven times as much as the next biggest spender, Immigration and Border Protection. This might explain why one of those four, EY, formerly Ernst and Young, was keen to hire a former defence minister. When it comes to defence consultancies, EY is the little pig at a big trough.”


“With more than a dozen other children, Shenton suffered years of bizarre and extreme privation – beatings, solitary confinement, doses of LSD. Created in the 1960s, The Family was fuelled by the charisma of its leader and supported by the credulity of wealthy intellectuals. Psychiatrists and renowned academics lent their credibility. Shenton was 15 years old when police raided the cult’s property in 1987. ”


“The prospect of greater access to finance has boosted confidence, driving a lift in home auction results across Australia as buyers see that lenders ready to open up again. Buyers have been tipped to surge into the housing market after financial regulators this week removed the shackles from lenders, allowing borrowers to boost the size of their loans.”


“The Federal Government will spend $750,000 to purchase and renovate the South Australian cottage where former prime minister Bob Hawke was born and grew up.”



“This isn't the first time she's referenced Disney in her Wimbledon press conferences, with ABC Offsiders panelist Kelli Underwood noticing a trend.”

Anna Horan
is a Melbourne-based editor and writer.