Friday, February 02, 2007

Government responsible to who?

"I don't tackle the nation's problems by handing over responsibility to an unelected body, and I'll never agree to do that," says the Prime Minister John Howard. He was referring to Australia’s water crisis, which might be diverting enough that people will forget AWB and other ‘hand over to unelected bodies’ under his tenure.

Howard’s new found respect for responsible government is being challenged by another ‘unelected body’ which seems to have control over, if not always responsibly – mining giant BHP Billiton. .

BHP-B has enormous power over the plunder of the country’s natural resources, and they are ready, it seems, to tell Howard and the public at large they have no intention of sharing in any resolution of the country’s worsening water problem.

Howard floated a balloon to the mining giant, which uses millions of litres of water a day without paying for it, ‘seeking’ agreement “to establish proper entitlements, metering, pricing and reporting arrangements for water extracted from the Great Artesian Basin.”

The basin is a giant aquifer which runs beneath NSW, Queensland, the Northern Territory and South Australia.

No way Hose, according to BHP. "We have operated in the Great Artesian Basin on the basis of the agreement with the South Australian Government that doesn't require us to pay for the water."

“BHP's Olympic Dam uranium, gold and copper mine and the neighbouring town of Roxby Downs draws 33 million litres of water a day from the basin free of charge.

If a Sydney household or business managed to use that much water, its daily bill would be more than $52,000.” SMH


The Howard government are in a similar squeeze on the WTO Doha Development Round. Having enthusiastically jump aboard the trade liberalisation train, again with the exception of that unelected AWB, Australia has been caught with its trade pans well and truly down.

Australian Trade Minister Warren Truss has found that the new Democrat majority in the US is not willing to continue “handing over responsibility to an unelected body” the WTO for their countries economic management.

Collin Peterson, the new chairman of the House of Representatives agricultural committee, who says the benefits of trade liberalisation has been oversold to Americans.

Truss is trying hard to find some positive news in all this, holding out for the new US Farm Bill to leave space for the prospect of the Doha round succeeding. Of course he could take heart that Peterson has been too busy with the Farm Bill to think about AWB.

Unlike the Howard government the US Democrats are recognising that you cannot, despite the rhetoric, hand over responsibility for commodities and resources to unelected bodies. As Peterson says the benefits of trade liberalisation has been oversold to Americans, and he might well add Australians.


Praguetwin said...

The beginning of the water wars? The wineries in N. California enjoy many of the same privedges. While an average home is now spending $300 per month on water, the wineries get their for free, and then sell wine at $20 a bottle. Yeah, that seems fair.

One of the reasons that inflation stays low is because commodities like water are subsidised. Oh what a hole we've dug (literally).

Anonymous said...

Ah the folly of negotiating natural resource contracts when it looks like supplies are limitless.

Cartledge said...

The worry signs now are that both our respective alternative governments are simply paying lip service the pressing environmental issues, like water and climate.
More likely they will focus on shifting the optics of the current paradigm from global to apparent domestic.
But until the bulk of voters understand that 'living standard' goes way beyond the hip pocket the political establishment will stick with what they know.

romunov said...

This is sweet. Fascism at your door step. You can stop reading history books now.

$300/month?! Water well that supplies is is free of charge (we pay for maintenance, though).

Water is something that only the elected govt should have oversight. Of course, all measures are rendered moot when you have no limitations of irrigation, fertilazer input and herbicide/pesticide/*.*cide.

Cartledge said...

rom, I expect the same people are doing their best to screw your water. I believe it is in the interest of mining.
You really need to wonder the value of gold when there is no one left to buy it.