When the Coalition announced this week their proposal to double food production in northern Australia by means of a set of dams my mind wandered to thoughts of the great Bruce Davidson and his monumental study, The Northern Myth, that was written more than 40 years ago. I read it in my final years at high school. Davidson set out all the reasons why such utopian schemes as that proposed by the Coalition were likely to fail and accurately predicted the problems of the Ord River scheme – poor soils and lack of decent dam sites being significant issues. Andrew Campbell over at the Crikey.com blog. Rooted, makes the same sorts of points about the Coalition plan and refers to the Davidson study. There are environmental arguments against such schemes – this is the anti-dam attitude of the Greens – but the main practical difficulty is that they do not stack up economically.
My guess is that this sort of scheme won’t ever get off the ground – Andrew Robb says it is currently “work in progress”! Those among us who are dismayed by the negativity of the Coalition and its lack of worthwhile policies in general often come to the conclusion that they are fixated on gaining government so that policy issues have been put on the back burner. The Coalition understand, for example, the need for labour market reform, but think that since WorkChoices was unpopular so they will not touch the issue. It might be true that the Coalition has a primarily political orientation but it might also be the case that this ill-informed bunch of nits don’t really have much in the way of decent policies to offer. Its a really worrying thought.