The death of 100,000 fish in the Murray-Darling Basin was blamed on low water levels, but the question of who turned off the tap needs to be asked.
Yesterday, hundreds of thousands of Murray cod and other native fish turned up belly up on the banks of the Lower Darling River, pushing experts to speculate on whether that entire communities of the species might have been wiped out for good. It also represents the second major incident in the area after 10,000 perished around Christmastime.
Experts believe the extremely low water levels in the Menindee Lakes area brought on the kill, accusing WaterNSW of mismanaging the area. According to their website, only 3.3% of water resides in the lakes, with it almost reaching capacity as recent as 2017. At the time of the first incident, WaterNSW and the NSW Department of Primary Industry blamed the drought, claiming that “…the ongoing drought conditions across western New South Wales have resulted in fish kills.”
However, other people have other ideas. In conversation with The Guardian, fishing journalist Rod McKenzie stated that the incident was “…an absolute tragedy. This is a world-scale fish kill, but the catastrophe has been so well orchestrated and there is so much money involved you won’t get to the bottom of it.”
With that being said, the dipping water levels may have been authored in Canberra, not in drought-strangled New South Wales. A long-forgotten Australian Financial Review piece retells the story of Barnaby Joyce’s trip to a Shepparton pub back in 2017, when as Federal Water Minister he was recorded panning the Four Corners investigation that looked into who profiting on the billions of taxpayer dollars poured into the Murray-Darling Basin. In that recording, he effectively confirmed that he redirected the water portfolio to his control, so he could protect investments upstream.
“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you and make sure we don’t have the greenies running the show basically sending you out the back door, and that was a hard ask,” he said in the recording.
“…Four Corners, you know what that’s all about? It’s about them trying to take more water off you, trying to create a calamity. A calamity for which the solution is to take more water off you, shut more of your towns down.”
But, the removal of water for profit is the issue. At the time, the South Australian government pushed for a judicial inquiry into the alleged theft of water from the Murray-Darling by the cotton growers of NSW, which resulted in the first charges handed down in March of last year.
The Head of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, Phillip Glyde, castigated the recording, and too, the words of Joyce, claiming that “They’re (the LNP) are completely corrosive and undermine the Murray Darling Basin Plan.”
Since then, both NSW and Victoria have threatened to withdraw from the aforesaid plan, with South Australia pushed to apathy by the unwillingness of the government to investigate the depth of water thievery in the Murray Darling.
With some, like Centre Alliance senator Rex Patrick calling for action, I suggest that we start asking questions, not allowing the same minds to come up with solutions to a problem they built.