Dasher shows politicians sell-out too cheap

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

IT TOOK barely $2,000 credit card reimbursement for Senator Sam ‘Dasher’ Dastyari to turn against his country and his party to advocate a pro-China line. That’s far too cheap a price to advocate a policy (China claiming swathes of the South China Sea from international waters, Vietnam, Phillipines, Malaysia and Indonesia) that could harm Australian farmers, exporters and importers. Dasher’s policy switch could allow China to control waters and international shipping rules vital to Australia’s exports to Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, as well as China. Anyone cognisant with international trade and payment systems knows not only how hard it is sometimes to extract the correct money from many Chinese importers, but also how they escape proper payment through their corrupt court system. The ability to seize cargos within their much broader claimed seaways would further harm Australian exporters. But Dasher, on $200,000 plus many parliamentary expenses benefits a year, was willing to sell Aussies down the drain to have his credit card debt paid out by a Chinese agent. Just as former Trade minister Andrew Robb was willing to sign the Port of Darwin over to a Chinese government-owned (and defence related) corporate — and then pop-up on $880,000 a year …

LNP needs pragmatic soul searching

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

ON ELECTION DAY, just as the polls opened, I received a text from Anna P advising me to vote against Chaos and Cuts.Early afternoon I received one from the LNP saying I should vote for jobs, growth and reduced budget deficit. That was typical of this election — Labor sharp, savvy and well timed in its messaging; the LNP loose and late. Anyone with any background in marketing knows that first get yourself structurally set, then persistently and consistently push the message through all channels. Labor won the second point by a mile — even with a hardly inspiring leader/main messenger, because it has an obviously superior marketing machine keeping to a tight, clear message. Forget that it might include lies or misconcerning issues such as state debt — like Donald Trump 2016, it messaged strongly to its core and swinging voters, those who trudged to the polling booths without enthusiasm and just wanted some certainty that they could forget politics for another couple of years. ‘Cuts and chaos’ was a brilliant line, and when Labor found it halfway through the campaign, they pushed and pushed it through every channel. It was easy to remember. Some may remember the late …

Figuring this election

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

IF THE interest rates the Queensland government paid pre-GFC (2008) applied to the current state debt, that’s $3.5 billion minused-out of each year’s budget. That $3.5 billion is five new high schools, a major hospital, 350kms of quality regional highway — per year. That should put all the promises made in this election in context. The current $72 billion state debt will, most optimistically, top out at $80 billion in the next four-year term. And interest rates at some time will return to the more usual levels. And the raiding of government business enterprises (mostly electricity, but also ports) and public sector superannuation is also about at an end, so the ‘funny money’ budget shuffles of the last few years are down to the last few pennies. When you look at the figures starkly, there’s no room for extra schools and hospitals, and the Bruce Highway will stay potholed. That’s the reality. So, promising $5 billion for an underground railway in Brisbane to support a declining number of commuters makes no sense. Only with that taken out of the election promises, can there be any hope of at least stopping the rise in state debt in time for the interest …

Back to bolted-down industries

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

ONCE UPON A TIME Australia was attractive to processing, refining and manufacturing industries using our abundant mineral and food resources, our reliable low-cost coal-fired electricity and a workforce trained in technical skills. No longer. Our last oil refinery has closed, leaving just three weeks supply of refined motor fuel in the country, and for the first time in at least 60 years Australia no longer produces motor vehicles. China and India have about 430 coal power plants under construction, but Australia has not built a single coal-fired power station for seven years — some politicians even rejoice when they manage to close and demolish one. Brisbane’s new trains are being made in India, Victa mowers are made in China and most coastal shipping died decades ago. Steel works and refineries producing aluminium, copper and zinc are under stress. All these industries are being pushed overseas by costly unreliable electricity and other government barriers and burdens. Red-green policies being pushed by all major parties are making Australia more dependent on bolted-down industries such as mining and farming that can’t be sent overseas because their basic resources are here. And green opposition to nuclear power increases Aussie reliance on coal. A century …

Solar — worse impact than farms or dams

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

WHILE THE NEIGHBOUR was clearing 400 hectares of pristine bushland for a solar farm, I wondered why this is good according to the greens. Other than a few bandicoots and wallabies shifting location, I didn’t notice any wildlife threatened, although the old trees hit the deck pretty hard. But, if you cleared that much virgin bushland for growing food, you’d be in court up to your neck in bad publicity and steep fines. And an engineer told me that the thousands of solar panels and inverters will use more rare and heavy metals (mainly raped out of kleptocratic countries of Africa) than even the most intensive farming and the maximum use of fertiliser and chemical. But this is all good, according to The Greens and Premier Anna. I just don’t get the obverse rationale. I have a few solar panels on the farm sheds, mainly to try to obviate the skyrocketing electricity bills, rather than trying to advertise green credentials. I didn’t know the adverse green impact until the engineer showed me. At least mine went on an existing structure, whereas the solar farms require total vegetatation clearing and the use of road base to stop regrowth (which has the …

Dam it — there’s a difference

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

WITH BRISBANE’S rail fail dropping rail passengers by 10 million passengers in the last year, at last there’s a difference in the state election. Labor is continuing with its $5 billion-plus Cross River tunnel in Brisbane, while the LNP is expressing doubts about the need for the commuter train tunnel until 2026, which allows it to promise dams and roads in regional Queensland. Given both major parties have gipped giving back the $3 billion excess profit rip-off from the state electricity companies, this could be the major difference between the parties. If you are a regional voter, your choice is $50 a year back on your electricity bill and a big subsidy to Brisbane commuters (mostly public servants) under the ALP, or dams for water-starved Townsville and agricultural potential in Rockhampton, Bowen and the Burdekin under the LNP. Of course, the ALP city MPs, such as powerful Deputy Premier Jackie Trad, don’t want to talk dams because that would upset the green voters and preferences they’re so dependent on to hold their seats. The issue of how we feed all the extra Queensland dears in south-east Queensland without extra water for agriculture is not even raised. That’s where voters need …

Let our national capital and money pit be the guinea pig

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

“Zero emissions will test the convictions of Canberrans,” writes Viv Forbes. Canberra with its ‘zero emissions’ target yearns to be Australia’s greenest address. Good. Let’s use them as a full-blown test of ‘zero emissions’ before we all jump over that cliff. Canberra passes thousands of laws for us. If their zero emissions dream is fair dinkum, they need to pass just three laws for themselves. First, ban all petrol, diesel and gas-powered trucks, cars, boats, generators and aeroplanes from Canberra. That should remove emissions from their atmosphere, food from their supermarket, and leave their roads free for pedestrians and bicycles. Idle airport runways would be ideal sites for solar panels and wind turbines. Second, prohibit the importation of coal or gas-fired electricity — they can demonstrate how to survive on wind, solar, hydro, batteries and fire-wood. They should work at home by candlelight on cloudy windless days. Third, introduce a CCT (Canberra-carbon-tax) whereby all carbon dioxide emitted elsewhere in the production and transport of their imported cement, steel, aluminium, bitumen, timber, vehicles, bicycles, solar panels, wind turbines, fire wood and food is charged to ACT end users. If people flock into emissions-free Canberra, we will know that this is the way …

Cut lines to cut power surge

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

THE $2.5 billion unfunded promise of a clean coal electricity generating station in North Queensland might be better replaced by a more reliable source outside government control and price shocks. Only 40 years ago, kerosine fridges and Lister generators were standard power sources in the bush. In the 1970s, the state government extended lines out to almost all Queensland — paying for it out of recurrent spending then. Tricky accountants in the government, assisted by the corrupted Queensland Competition regulator, have ensured the electricity consumers have paid for those lines now three times over. The trick is to revalue the power lines to current construction costs, and then charge on the basis that a 40-year-old already-paid-for line has to be paid for, again, at current prices. They do the same with dams, which is the major driver of rising water prices. This is why senior public servants need to be paid such high salaries. Some of those lines actually need replacing, as is known by irrigators and people in the bush who suffer regular brown-outs. But since the money has been collected by outrageously high charges, but then paid at a billion a year into the state Treasury for other …

The worryingly low key election ‘campaign’

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

DRIVING DOWN the Bruce goat track just before the big rain hit Bundaberg, the only sight other than crackling dry grass were a multitude of One Nation posters. Heard on the radio a few statements by the Premier and Opposition Leader, about five items into the news bulletin. But for what in the next few months will be one of the most critical election campaigns in the state’s history — deathly quiet. While Pauline, and the Katters up north, are rattling the chain locally, the two major parties appear to be making appearances pretty low key, with the usual few millions here and there. Labor appears to be dividing the state into SEQ and the rest. In SEQ, as the brochures show, it is all about sucking up to the Greens. ALP candidates in outer suburbs, where trees are cleared fence to fence to allow new houses and freeways, have brochures demanding an end to tree clearing in the bush to ‘save the Reef’. It’s the sort of shallow, cynical politicking that blows warm air into the voter’s ear and provides no solutions. For the rest of Queensland, it’s just a copy of Malcolm Turnbull’s hardly successful ‘jobs and growth’ …

Sugar Tax — why not just pay farmers more

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

A NEW CALL for a sugar tax has come to solve the growing problem of obesity. Trials in the USA— in Philadelphia and California — have shown taxing full sugar drinks reduces the sales of soft (and fruit) drinks, but doesn’t solve obesity among children. The obesity ‘crisis’ is caused more by kids spending time in front of screens. Their risk-averse mothers won’t let them run around, play footie or even walk to school. Sales of four-wheel-drives are now driven by city mothers who drive their kids to school (screens going to kids in the back seat) rather than off-roading to some place the kids can run around burning calories. Of course, the doctors calling for the 20 per cent sugar tax want the money channelled into health promotion and more doctors. Self-interest is always a major driver of calls for more taxes and levies. And it will be supported by all those public servants eyeing-off another income stream to support their comfortable work environment for achieving stuff all. (See ABC TV series Utopia). And what about the research coming out that shows the non-natural sugar replacement sweeteners have loads of chemicals that cause all sorts of health issues? Do …

Price crunch hits most farmers

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

WHILE SOME worry about the world feeding itself, the real issue is low prices caused by oversupply of so many crops. Cattle and coffee are doing well, due to supply shortages, but generally food prices are down, on a long down-trend. The Australian Bureau of Statistics household survey out this week showed families under stress from high mortgage, credit card, energy and utility prices. All the government supplied or prices services such as electricity, gas and water are up double, treble and quadruple wages and inflation over the last decade. But families have no problems feeding themselves if they stick to the basics — home cooked rather than $20 smashed avocado and coffee breakfasts. Most families spend more on mobile phone and internet and cable TV than they do on food basics! So when a farmer showed me that he was getting less for tomatoes than the box cost, or pineapples were selling for less than picking costs, then you wonder about so called ‘food shortages’. And despite hurricanes, droughts and floods across the world, markets are deluged in grain to the extent ships and warehouses are bulging despite low prices. Interestingly, it is high-tech western farmers who can produce …

Efficiency versus effectiveness — what’s in it for a farmer?

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

THE ANNOUNCEMENT of closures of the Churchill beef and Ipswich chicken abattoirs and the increase by US giant ADM to 25 per cent of Wilmar are just a few more dots in the future picture for farmers and graziers. Start with the closure of vegetable and dairy processing plants in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria over the last decade as processing giants, mostly multi-nationals, took control and rationalised for efficiency. Not all those ‘strategic decisions’ have gone to plan, along with logistic rationalisation by major grain and cotton processors and marketers. The tension between efficiency (as loved by multi-nationals servicing shareholders and their short-term bonus-driven CEOs), effectiveness (best quality food with the best return for farmers and consumers), what’s good for a broad range of farmers, and what’s good for Australia is palpable. None of those four gives the same answer — especially if you add sustainability for farmers and consumers through the seasons and cycles (not just weather but the all-important political, economic, ‘flavour of the month’, currency, energy price, land and water policy changes). Most of the decisions affecting food and fibre and those who produce, market and manufacture or retail are done on a short-term and …

Every Lunatic in the Lucky Country wants their voice heard

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

NOT FOR THE faint of heart, this tinkering with established rules. It’s a bit like painting one wall of your house, once you start that caper the rest of it starts to appear as worn out or decayed. About January 1901 our esteemed forefathers whacked a set of guidelines together in what is basically a concise document with firm parameters for our goodselves to go forth with. The Constitution… By the way, they put a fair bit of thought into it. The documents weren’t forged and fused together on the six o’clock train home after a dozen VB cans at the footy. So, now that the twenty-first century has arrived and we are the Technological Titans of the new millennium, we have suddenly decided that every time an issue comes-up that we don’t agree with or like, we bellow from the bulwarks. Bring on a Referendum… To change anything in our Constitution, you need a Referendum. And if there is one thing that is certain about referendums in this country, it’s that, as a population, we don’t seem to like either the concepts or the questions. To be sure, most of the average punters in the street are of the opinion …

Not just citizenship of pollies needs a check

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

A GROUP of us went to Canberra in ‘the recession we had to have’ in the 1990s to meet with Paul Keating to get more road and regional development funding for regional Queensland, when he stuck out his thin hand for a handshake. A crusty livestock trucker from the north-west grabbed the hand to Keating’s surprise, turned it over and looked at it carefully. An obviously frightened Keating asked what was going on. The turd herder (as he described himself) said he just wanted to “read the palm that’s been stuck in my wallet taking all me money.” Even Keating laughed. The point here is that (a) a bunch of upset down-at-heel bushies got into see a Labor Treasurer, (b) they man-handled the Treasurer without a security alert, and (c) the point was made with a good Aussie laugh. A couple of decades on we have a Parliament where, under such tight security, real people hardly get access to pollies, the talk is all so politically correct that hardly a real issue gets raised, and pollies are so consumed with third rate issues (SSM to ‘am I really an Aussie’), the real business of the nation affecting real people hardly …

Find balls and vote — then onto real stuff

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

I’M WITH Warren Entsch: politicians should ‘find their balls’ and get the vote on marriage equality done and dusted. It’s a 100th order issue for the vast majority of people. Now back to real issues. Our landline is barely working, even for only a few hours a day since Cyclone Debbie, but we can’t get Telstra to fix it. Internet is hopeless and mobile is still patchy. Communications in the bush is still very second rate compared to inner cities. Apart from a few mini towers, nothing is being done. Where are our MPs strong-arming the telcos to give us decent communication just because we aren’t metropolitan voters? And other Cyclone Debbie fix-ups are still in the money debating/shuffling stage — from both governments and insurers. Where’s the pressure to get resolution with an early wet season predicted and cyclones potentially less than six months away? And the China and Indonesia export trade in lots of agricultural commodities is being subject to some very variable import rules that seem either a matter of corruption (not being paid) or deliberate Asian-style divide-and-rule sellers policy. Where’s the Australian government taking a strong stand on that, or do we face another live cattle …

So honest it’s painfully funny

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

DO YOURSELF a favour — as music guru Molly Meldrum used to say on Countdown — and watch the first episode of series three of ABC TV’s program Utopia. For anyone interested in developing northern Australia, it’s a ‘comedy’ on the federal and state government political and bureaucratic mess on funding northern projects. Just like the reality, several years down the track from major announcements, no money has actually been delivered That’s sad enough — there’s humour so close to the bone it is painful. But if that isn’t enough, the half hour also intersects a story on getting local government planning approval, AND (there’s more)…what bureaucrats get up to in the office. If you are a taxpayer, have a box of tissues close by so you can weep. Bureaucrats probably take the episode seriously — as a training manual. But politicians should be tied to a chair and forced to watch, along with a boxed set of that old standard Yes Minister. If you don’t think Utopia is close to reality, you are probably right. The episode didn’t include the Northern Development Minister, just on the verge of actually delivering some outcomes, having to resign because he might be …

If Politicians can’t do the paperwork

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

WITH BOTH co-deputy leaders of The Greens now out of the Senate due to a paperwork oversight, what hope is there for the rest of us caught-up in green tape, red tape, tax tape and all the other bureaucratic tapes legislated by politicians? Over the last few months, the paper and electronic mail has piled-up as we clean-up after Cyclone Debbie and still get-on with all those winter jobs kept for when the weather is a bit cooler. And that’s led to another blizzard of paper and electronic reminders. Struth, you’d think we had 38-and-a-quarter spare hours a week to fill in paperwork — only if you are a bureaucrat and that’s your full-time, well-paid and handsomely-superannuated job. I always liked a great uncle who paid his bills twice a year — a few weeks before Christmas when in town for Christmas shopping, and during the Winter Racing Carnival when he visited Brisbane to see the accountant and the gee-gees. Depending on the year past, the accountant’s advice and his parsimonious flutters, the mid-year cheques would be dated June 30 or July 1. And if you didn’t like that, well he was about a 1000kms of mostly dirt road from …

Biosecurity can’t be politically correct

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Reader's Views

THE SPREAD of fire ants to Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast highlights problems in biosecurity and urban sprawl into rural areas. We were involved in the first fire ant outbreak in Australia, which started from the devastating and destructive ant being imported in pots in a container from Mexico, then crawling across to our property. For a start, we were then, and still, struggle to understand why a shipping container from Mexico to Brisbane would not have been inspected by Australian Customs. For a start, Mexico was then part of the drug trail from Columbia (and a Mexican drug lord had just been caught in Melbourne), and it had a large number of suspected agricultural diseases, from foot and mouth to banana and sugar cane diseases and problematical pests and insects, including fire ants. Surely a container marked as having garden pots coming from a rural area of Mexico should have been inspected. Surely every Customs minister from 2001 until the current Peter Dutton should be instructing Customs that border security is not just an election slogan, but requires real work of opening and checking ALL suspect containers, even if that pings-off importers. Then once the ants were detected, not …

Who’ll feed eight billion

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Reader's Views

THE WORLD’S POPULATION will pass eight billion in just five years time. That’s two-thirds of a billion extra mouths to feed within five years. But, where the extra people are, and where the food is, are quite separate. Europe and the USA have plenty of surplus food, but falling populations (if migrants both legal and illegal are not included). Africa, which has eight million starving just in South Sudan, accounts for more than half the world population growth. White people, when they feel poor, stop copulating. The biggest falls in population are in Eastern Europe and Russia, where the klepto-government which replaced communism offers no hope to ordinary folk who, by the statistics, turn to the bottle rather than bed. But in Africa and India, despite desperate living conditions, the poor believe they should copulate their way to a better life. Go figure — or at least a PhD for some sociologist. Feeding an extra 150 million people a year is a big task. Most of them live on land that has been severely degraded and water supplies depleted by over-population already. And without honest government and certainty of land and water ownership they aren’t being more productive growing food. …

For the many, not the few

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

THE ELECTION logo and theme behind Jeremy Corbin’s surprise electoral surge in the UK — For the many, not the few — brilliantly summed-up the frustrations of the general populace, there and here. The fact that a severely left wing leader with no practical policies or experience could gain such a surge against the traditionally electorally pragmatic conservatives only highlights how pinged-off most people of various electoral colours are with the Big Business/Big Bureaucrat elites who appear to treat ordinary folk, small business and farmers as serfs and peasants who should be grateful. We should extend ‘the many’ to include not just the general employee populace, but also small business and farmers who have little bargaining power against the BIGs on pricing of wages and pricing or payment terms for their output — or pricing on their inputs (electricity and gas prices, government fees and charges that are triple or more inflation, supermarket or fuel pricing that appears to have no relation to global or market prices). The important point for those of us in small business and farms is that we need to be included in the oppressed ‘many’. Premier Palaszczuk has forecast an electricity deal obviously aimed at …

Is organic really sustainable?

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

WHEN I HAD my $25 organic coffee and organic egg (just one) and organic beetroot salsa on quinoa toast (just one piece) in Sydney, I thought it was all a bit of a hipster joke. Almost needed a $3 McMuffin to stave off hunger. Just as well I wasn’t fencing for the day. Then at the supermarket the daughter was considering the range of organic baby food. The organic range was the biggest length of shelf in the baby food section. What happened to smashed boiled pumpkin and sweet potato our kids were weaned on? Maybe it comes from reading carefully the instructions on chemical bottles, but I like to read the sides of the bottles and cans of baby formula and food for my precious grandchildren. So there’s the best selling baby formula which, in big print, says ‘Product of Australia’ and in smaller print ‘made from imported and local ingredients’. But read the even finer print — the bulk of the product is organic milk produced from cows in Austria — that’s the Sound of Music country in Europe. All that is done in Australia is pour a bulk bag of Austrian organic milk powder into cans. All …

Post-cyclone insurance rorts — locals don’t count

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN and Sydney builders answering to Canadian assessor, to be adjudicated by Melbourne claim assessors — that’s the post-Cyclone Debbie insurance service. And none of these advisors to the major Australian insurers would know a cyclone if it hit them — let alone how to actually fix a cyclone-damaged building. No cyclones have hit Canada (from where 15 assessors came from according to our Mayor), Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide. You wouldn’t expect a North Queensland assessor to be able to judge snow storm damage. That’s the price of the multi-nationaling of the insurance and finance industry — they use multi-national service suppliers such as assessor suppliers, loss adjusters and building estimators and builders. One of our buildings was repaired after the previous cyclone (prior to our ownership) and the bodgieness of that repair shows after Debbie — lack of proper overlap of roof and wall sheeting, lack of enough tech screws and tie downs, cheap and ineffective gutter carriers, non-cyclone rated windows and fitment, and electrical work which doesn’t withstand the humidity of the tropics. That’s why most people want a local builder to do their cyclone damage repairs. Three politicians who have toured after the cyclone have said …

Nationals’ wrong dial tone on telco services

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Reader's Views

FEDERAL MINISTER for Regional Services, Fiona Nash, has got a totally wrong dial tone on internet and mobile services for the bush. She said this week in “The Weekly Times” http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/data-drought/data-drought-nbn-co-planning-bigger-data-plans-for-regional-business/news-story/e9e4b635199ecbc554c813018ca3d516 The National Party senator and wife of a grain farmer near Young in central NSW was an intelligent and engaging person — when I last met her. But her comments are a total brain fade, and reflect the consistent lobbying efforts from the highly profitable telcos, and the advice from all those public servants in Canberra with most excellent internet and mobile services. As any MP (given their dependence on the mobile glued to their ear and the internet to keep in contact with advisors) should know, high quality telecommunications is not a luxury, but an absolute necessity, not just for those hipsters and political junkies in major metropolitan areas. Anyone listening to radio coverage of Cyclone Debbie’s path of destruction would have heard, ad nauseam, the government and insurance company advice to look-up the internet, go to our web page, text our hotline. And so many would have recognised this advice — all written by bureaucrats and marketing whizzes in comfortable capital city offices with no understanding about …

Risks multiplying in agriculture

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Reader's Views

GROWING STUFF, either animals, or plants in the ground, has always been risky. But the risks are growing for Australian farmers, vis-a-vis their overseas competitors. Weather is always a risk, but one which most farmers plan for. Relatively few will take-up the cyclone rescue package, and for those worst hit, the amounts will be too little. But in most other countries, full crop insurance is just a basic government provision, like a pension for old people. It guarantees that even in a catastrophic weather event, farmers have an income. As it turns out, often the event doesn’t have to be very serious and the income is very good. In Europe, it is unmercilessly rorted. You can get 6,000 euros per hectare if the crop so fails you must plough it out. Most Australian farmers would take a few thousand dollars a hectare to farm after a disaster. A similar but not quite rewarding scheme operates in the USA — and Japan, and China, and even India in some commodities. When President Trump, who after three months still hasn’t got an Ag Secretary confirmed, threw-out about reducing crop insurance as a major saving in government expenditure; it took only hours to …

Premier Palaszczuk averse to using three significant words in same sentence

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

AGALERT OPINION “Agriculture recovery from ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie is critical to Queensland’s recovery,” says Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk — yet she continues to mention ‘drought’ and ‘recovery’ without once mentioning ‘dams’. In a recent media release, the Premier stated that her Government was determined to work with the State’s agricultural sector to ensure its recovery was part of the State’s efforts to bounce back from ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie. During a visit to Bowen with State Disaster Recovery Co-ordinator, Brigadier Chris Field, the Premier said agriculture was an important contributor to the local and State economy. To date, assistance under the joint Commonwealth-State Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) had been activated in the 11 local government areas of Whitsunday, Mackay, Central Highlands, Gladstone, Gold Coast, Isaac, Logan, Lockyer Valley, Scenic Rim, Rockhampton and Livingstone. Category B assistance under NDRRA includes concessional loans of up to $250,000 and essential working capital loans of up to $100,000 and freight subsidies of up to $5,000. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will continue to work closely with impacted industries and producers to monitor the region and I will be advised if we need further additions to Category B activation, or if we …

Truth floods out in Debbie

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

ONE REALITY of a great natural disaster like Cyclone Debbie — whether the force be wind or rain or flood — is that some truths are laid bare. The trees are stripped of leaves and the water goes down after the flood exposing some ugly realities. Here are some I saw while chainsawing trees up fence lines and collecting sheets of iron a kilometre from shattered sheds. As a farmer I am not, as the city greenies keep getting lots of airtime to say, ‘killing the reef’. I went up the river above any farm, mostly coming out of national park and state forests, and the water was a brown swirl with dirt, sand, logs and leafage (and a few dead wallabies and plenty of live snakes). It was all heading to the ‘reef’, as it has done for thousands of cyclones pre white and even black people. The river from above the farms left a nice layer of silt across the paddocks — but I can show any greenies wanting to help with some fencing that no dirt was scoured-out of even our prepared paddocks. The reef is part of the great natural cycle that lives and dies and …

Water, water — wasted like a leaking tap

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Reader's Views

DRIVING THROUGH Baralaba — generally a pretty dusty central Queensland town — last week, we had the amazing sight of a metre of water tumbling over the weir on its way to flood Rockhampton. I’m sure I’m not the only person who thought that, “gee, it’d be great if we could store some of that water for when the dry times return.” And perhaps a number of storages (we couldn’t mention that politically incorrect term ‘dam’) down the Mackenzie, Dawson and other great rivers this last week flooding into the Fitzroy. Or some of those that poured-off the Clarke Range that flowed past the good country at Bowen. Or over the mighty Burdekin Falls Dam and not captured for that huge, and potentially larger Burdekin farming area. Or behind Casino and Grafton, or the Mary or Boyne rivers. You get the picture. Cyclone Debbie was a real bitch for the wind and water damage. But she was also that once-in-a-couple-of-years opportunity when this largely wide, brown land gets a decent drenching. Lots of farm and community dams from Ayr to Taree got filled-up. But like the leaking tap, so much water was wasted. That anti-dam (and just about everything) publication, …

After the TV cameras leave…

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

AS THE TV reporters leave the ‘disaster porn’ coverage of Tropical Cyclone Debbie (better known in the tropical farming areas as ‘that bitch’), the clean up begins. The first and most important clean-up is head space. People who have been through many cyclones have been traumatised by the experience of waiting with uncertainty, the roaring winds and listening to rooves and windows creaking and tearing. And then traumatised by looking at the damage to buildings and crops lovingly and expensively tended. People, usually hard and tough, are in shock. So the first task is to look after each other. A hug, a quiet word, a check out of neighbours, family and friends — these very human responses are needed. Then comes the physical clean-up. In some places, floodwaters will take days to fall before gaining access. Electricity will be weeks away for many towns and farms. Currently, people living off generators are running out of fuel and water (ironically) and there’s no power to get pumps going. These are very real issues not well understood in cities where utilities are a given. Then there’s the fallen trees, shed rooves, inundated rooms and workshops. And lots of people can’t work or …

Johno’s View: Dolphin torches will dominate in dopey South Ozzie

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

THE REST OF the planet must be wondering what’s in the pollen that we breathe down here in the Southern Hemisphere. They must be grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat with the 240-volt hotshot attached to his tail. Give ya a couple of little, but very pertinent facts, me Lords. This joint is full of it, or surrounded by it. Raw materials for energy that is. Coal, gas, sun, water, wind, uranium — this is a fact! It’s not what we’re doing with it, while we are living in the lap of luxury associated with the abundance of materials that are required for the frazzle — rather, it’s what we’re not doing with it. Nine coal-fired power stations have closed or had the dynamite treatment since 2012. A fleet the size of Napoleon’s Canoes of Chaos in 1805 carting the gas away from us at a rate of knots that makes ya head spin — and not a joule left for the Crown for the mantle of world’s largest gas exporter. With barely a Rouble of Royalties either — rather a PRRT system that works on super profits. Like, fair dinkum, ya honestly think they will be visible by the …

Big get bigger — at our cost

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

WITH A PILE of bills to pay, I looked through the Council rates and electricity bills and wondered where the savings were! Remember when Peter Beattie, after a few stunts like swimming with a toothless shark, announced to great fanfare his shake-up of the electricity ‘market’, and then the Council amalgamations (which he left to Anna Bligh in a nasty hospital pass)? He repeatedly said, backed-up with lots of ads and glowing tributes from the members of the George Street floating cocktail party business elite, that both measures would create efficiencies and save us money. A decade on, electricity and the bills are going up five to ten times inflation, each and every year. And Council rates keep going up well above inflation for efficiencies only counted if that means you see the Council grader much less often. Certainly the Chairs, Mayors and CEOs are on much bigger money — all those extra assets they have to manage requires lots more reward. But if they were paid on real efficiencies and keeping their charges — what we have to pay — below inflation, then they’d be paid in pennies. The ‘big is better’ mantra seems only to benefit the senior …

UPDATE: Dunedoo fires create more problems behind the scenes

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Reader's Views

LAST WEEK, Gary Briggs, (managing director of Dingo Australia), wrote a first hand account of the devestation caused by the bush fires around Dunedoo in New South Wales. http://agalert.com.au/wombats-in-the-higher-echelons-of-the-nsw-government/ Gary now provides a follow-up relative to the greater consequences: Hi Col, glad to see you are still kicking arse; I wondered what happened after Blues. I’m getting a good number of responses; but not sure we are going to achieve a political win. This one is far bigger than the floods. These poor B’s lost everything — everything. Where and how do you start again without serious help? They have now run into another blow from Government. Asbestos has been declared in the buildings, as a matter of course. And “just in case,” every bit of ash has to be disposed of correctly. And no-one has any idea how to do it on such a grand scale. It is illegal to dig a hole and bury it. And it is illegal to remove it. The same rules apply to a 300 metre house block as a 1,000 acre farm. Crazy!

Tackle obesity with more R&D for veggies 

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Horticulture, Produce, Reader's Views

FOR AN INNOVATIVE and agile nation, why do we try to tackle obesity with sugar tax and media campaigns rather than invest more R&D on fruit and vegetable production and logistics? But President Trump may, inadvertently, drive major investment to put more and better quality “ten serves of fruit and veggies” on consumers’ tables. For all the health advice that we need to eat more fruit and veggies to tackle western society’s obesity problem, the amount invested in R&D in fruit and veggies has been declining in Australia and, until recently, in the USA from where we get a lot of our technology and seed strains. This is where we will get more and better quality fruit and veggies, rather than all those cute stories about growing veggies on urban footpaths or in high rise buildings. Most agricultural R&D globally and in Australia goes into grains, largely because it is broadacre, involves big seed sales for multinationals, and has better data as an internationally tradable commodity. Productivity shows this: since 1920, six times as much corn is grown per hectare, but lettuce production has only doubled. The baseline of vegetable research is a book called AH-66, produced in 1954 by …

Reader views on QSL/Wilmar dispute

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

Wilmar/QSL dispute: Readers have their say   COLIN IVORY, Burdekin cane farmer, writes: Cane supply agreements in good faith have not occurred. A new era in the sugar industry must take place. Sugar millers must be treated as contractors. Sugar cane growers pay a contract rate for crushing. Sugar cane growers must not be forced to give TITLE of their cane at the point of delivery. If a mill wants all the sugar they must buy all the sugar. It’s a win/win for both grower and miller. Barnaby must act and knock the state sugar act on the head.   KEVIN WALSH, Home Hill, writes: Oh, yeah yeah yeah, was there all talk no action. No talk of some new mills, legislation isn’t going to change things. Government fast forwarding legal crap to build a new mill in each area would — its possible eh. It would depend on the gutz of politicians. And speak with action that has beneficial results for Australians to rebuild their industries that have been destroyed by overseas take-over. Got to get a decent government in power. Both sides are up the creek. Probably need a whole new creek, eh?   Write to: col@agalert.com.au

Poll premonition today for Pontius Pilate Palaszczuk

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Reader's Views

NOTHING BEATS a Sunday for a good Biblical story, and today should prelude a ‘joining of the waters’ for the Queensland sugar industry when Wilmar sugarcane growers converge on the Burdekin Theatre in Ayr to demonstrate their wrath with the foreign-owned miller disputing their right to have input into how their sugar is marketed to the world. It will also be the day that Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will have justifiable proof that both governments are on the nose. Add Member for Mirani, Jim Pearce, to the list, because he must see the writing on the wall that his days in the Queensland Parliament — as a Labor/Union politician second time around — are numbered. How can he support the expected loss of several hundred sugar mill workers’ jobs this coming season? None have supported the people they supposedly represent. The Queensland Premier clucked lyrical this week that a new egg facility in Brisbane will employ about 150 people — yet at the same time washed her hands of thousands of sugarcane farmers, harvester operators, support businesses and groups and their families to support a foreign owner trying to ride roughshod over the industry rather than …

Water ain’t water

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

ONE OF the children now living in Brisbane wanted to put in a tank for pure ‘off the roof’ drinking water like he had growing up. Hasn’t that turned into a bureaucratic and expensive mud pool. Apparently if you live in Brisbane you are not allowed to drink tank water unless it first goes through a special, and expensive, filtration system. You have to fill in a form, pay a fee and get a plumber’s certificate to have tank water connected to drinking taps. Without that you are banned (yes, banned) from drinking tank water. My son says he now understands why Brisbane people are different from real Queenslanders — they are drinking their two litres a day and bathing in the highly-chlorinated Brisbane ‘official’ water. No wonder all those Brisbane bureaucrats are brain-damaged from all the chemicals in their system. There’s nothing like the taste of real tank water. Even a few leaves and possum droppings make it purer than Brisbane chlorinated muck.

Time for ordinary respect

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

GETTING SICK AND TIRED of all the articles and TV ‘expert’ commentary about why more and more people are drifting away from the major political parties? The elites of the major cities are almost in a panic that ‘ordinary people’ might make a decision on voting day that doesn’t put a #1 beside Bland 1 or Bland 2. Ordinary people might be upset that: Politicians and business leaders on multi-million-dollar payouts who can wangle just five per cent tax on their lump sums and still hold a six-figure consultancy think it is fair to rip a vital $25 a week off your pensioner mum; Australia Post’s top bureaucrat gets $5.6 million a year, including a $1.2 million bonus for delivering worse service and ripping-off hard working and very averagely remunerated post office contractors; Inner cities get 5G mobile services while the bush gets 3G or none at all; Bureaucrats tell us to ‘download’ their latest flurry of forms, forgetting they have NBN while we get very dodgy internet across copper wire strung between trees. (And don’t mention the wireless or satnet which drops-out in windy or wet weather); It’s okay to clear trees for new suburbs, but not to grow …

Politics versus political leadership

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

A VILLAGE IN INDIA that was poverty stricken in the mid-1990s has transformed into a flourishing farming community. Many of the people of Hiware Bazar in the state of Maharashtra left for jobs in large cities after a drought hit the area decades ago. Those left behind lost hope until they elected Popatrao Pawar as the leader of the village in 1989. He applied for loans that were used to build systems to manage the water, such as rainwater harvesting and dams. Even though the area only gets about 381mm of rain annually, Hiware Bazar now produces many crops including onions, potatoes and millet — and many of the people who left have returned to their home town. The motto: all it takes is someone with dedication to a community’s future to make a difference.

Trade surplus shows all governments off track

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

THE MARKETS celebrated a record December trade surplus by lifting the Aussie dollar, but it just shows all governments are off track. The export-led economic growth was led by iron ore, coal, grains and sugar exports — none of the areas backed by governments. In fact, led by their hipster, inner city advisors, governments have been doing all they can by slowing development approvals for mining and agriculture — and adding as many taxes and charges as they can burden on these industries. Some $32.6 billion of exports in December for a $3.5 billion surplus and not a hipster in sight. The Queensland government thinks building a jail at more than a million dollars a cell is going to boost the economy, while it puts every obstacle in the way of mining and agriculture. Even the much vaunted (and political donation heavy) property industry only added half a per cent to Australia’s growth in 2017. Most politicians, their advisors and the public forget that when export commodity prices were down in 2015, December registered a $4.4 billion deficit. How quickly they forget. They don’t seem to understand that to support Australia’s growing population we need to expand the industries where …

Buying a Queensland government far too cheap

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

QUEENSLANDERS have just celebrated the 30th anniversary of the start of the Fitzgerald Commission, which was supposed to clean-up crime and corruption. But, as we were cleaning-up our shed, Mr Haveachat said he’d heard that the Anna Alphabet government would change its policy for half a million dollars. Apparently the local organiser for the AWU (that’s the workers union struggling to hold members in rural industries and councils) was fuming. It appeared he was about to lose nearly 190 jobs next season at the local sugar mills from a foreign company that the ALP (which the AWU was an influential numbers player) was buddying up to. Why would the ALP (and on this debate, just pick a party) ditch a union with thousands of members, let alone thousands of farmers and their families, in many marginal electorates for an offshore company? Asked the union man. He even quoted official ALP talk sheets (sent to key members like him as well as MPs) for the political lines they were supposed to spread among their communities. The ones on the sugar marketing debate, as repeated by Jackie Trad and Bill Byrne, were in parts word-for-word the Wilmar statements. “So I’m supposed to …

Desperate data matchers chase farmers

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

I MUST ADMIT that I lost it. When the bureaucrat in the Office of State Revenue said I owed $XXX because he had valued a block of land at more than three times the best offer I had — he was lucky you can’t pour dingo baits down a phone line. While all the publicity on ‘data matching’ has been about the temporarily unemployed or pensioners getting a ‘demand’ from the federal government, there’s been a quiet exercise of computerised money grabbing by the Queensland government, largely aimed at the rural and mining sector. So, you cut-off a small block to sell to a neighbour at a reasonable price, but with water licences being so complicated, a settlement might take six or nine months. Government agencies are now ‘data sharing’ (obviously the bureaucrats all went to high level conferences in exotic locations with big consultants to introduce this exciting new concept), so you just put in an application with your local council or Department of Natural Resources to split a block and that data is sent to Office of State Revenue. So, even before you have a sale organised or a price arranged with the neighbour, OSR has sent a …

Letter: Politician expenses, and the A list events

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

HAVING THROUGH WORK and for my industry had plenty to do with politicians over 40 years, here’s my take on the politician expenses furore. It is dangerous, well beyond the amounts of money. That a Liberal minister on almost half a million a year has to claim a few airfares and hotel bills, or Labor backbenchers with $2 to 4 million in Parliamentary superannuation have to put the family holiday on political expenses — that gets the public wild. But it’s not the most concerning issue. It’s their mindset that concerns. Even the most average backbencher is on $200,000, plus an office of a dozen flunkies plus every (reasonable) expense covered plus well above industry medical, accident and superannuation coverage. Money isn’t the issue. Nor is work. Politicians whinge about how long they work and how much they travel. It is no more than any private sector worker or business owners — and most of them have greater responsibilities and risks for less pay than a politician. It is about ego, self-importance and establishing a belief that as a politician you are indispensable. It is about being an A list person. (There are a couple of exceptions to this, but the …

Letter: Disarm and defund the green globalists NOW

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

NAPOLEON’S Grand Army was defeated in the Battle of the Nations in 1813. The Emperor abdicated and was banished to Elba. But his army was not disarmed and destroyed by the victors. Just two years later, Napoleon escaped and quickly re-mobilised his army. Only Wellington blocked his path to Brussels, at Waterloo. After a fierce day of battle, a weary line of redcoats still held the ridge at Waterloo. But Napoleon’s Old Guard had been held in reserve for this decisive moment. Advancing like a spear, three columns wide, ‘The Invincibles’ aimed to pierce the middle of the thin red line. But a miracle occurred. Withering fire on both sides of the spear from the thin red line sapped their strength — Napoleon’s Old Guard broke and ran. This was the critical point of that battle (and for the climate war now). It is at the moment of defeat, with the enemy disorganised and demoralised, that the greatest gains can be made. Too often, however, the weary victors waste this opportunity to pursue and destroy the enemy. Wellington’s exhausted army was incapable of pursuit, but a miracle occurred — General Blucher arrived at sundown with fresh Prussian troops. The avenging …

Advanced infrastructure for Australia: Have we missed the boat on the global trade caper?

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

She’s a funny old joint, this world The more things change, the more they remain the same. A little bit of a “Silk Road” shall we? What a way to go. A choo choo line, a multi-laned highway, and an ocean footprint to follow from Beijing to Brussels — from the mystical East to the disposable societies of the West. Throw-in a couple of pirates, a few highwaymen and a lack of wallopers, and we are just about to enter a period of nostalgia and déjà vu. This caper sort of started a few thousand years ago when Marc Antony, with a wee bit of wanderlust and a huge dose of good old-fashioned lust, just wandered into Alexandria in Egypt on a day off, back when Cleopatra was creating havoc on the dance

 floor. Old Octavian sent him off on a mission, as part of the second triumvirate and the Vibrant Vixen with the snakes around her breasts, bamboozled and vanquished the Socialite Consul with wine, song and seductive dance. He had been deployed over to Egypt

 to boost the Roman treasuries, and that was the beginning of the end for young Marc. The booze was cold and the women …

Everything that’s rotten rises to the top in politics

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

AMERICA’S worst president, and the darling of the equally debauched left wing ‘progressive’ mainstream media, just can’t leave office without laying a few more minefields for future generations. In one of his last environmental pushes before he leaves office next month, president O’Bummer has permanently banned new oil and gas drilling in federal waters of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. Ostensibly to protect the waters, Obama used a 1950s-era law called the Outer Continental Shelf Act that allows presidents to limit areas from mineral leasing and drilling. Environmental groups say Obama’s use of the law means the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump could not simply reverse the action, but would have to fight it in the Courts. The ban affects federal waters off Alaska in the Chukchi Sea and most of the Beaufort Sea and in the Atlantic from New England to Chesapeake Bay. Why doesn’t he simply walk away with some integrity intact (first black president is historic, like Australia’s first female prime minister). Now, there’s a link. Back here in Australia, prime minister Lord Turnbull of the Wentworth Fiefdom, has ear-marked his priorities for 2017 by grandstanding in Sydney at a dinner where he proclaimed his priorities …

SYDNEY OR THE BUSH: too right or two wrong?

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

AS WE HEADED to a meeting in Sydney, near Flemingon Markets, to discuss who’d buy our produce in 2017, my partner commented: “There are more burquas here than in Beirut.” Neither of us Queenslander farm boys have been to the Middle East beyond Dubai Airport, but the bus in Auburn (Sydney) was full of ladies (presumably) in burquas and hijabs (more the scarf over the head rather than the full head cover). And the shops were plastered with Arab writing and blokes with cotton headpieces drinking mini cups of coffee and talking not English. We drove past Lakemba Mosque, which is huge, and every block surrounding is full of what looks more like Beirut than Sydney — or perhaps we forget that this is what modern Sydney west of Olympic Park has become — 850,000 middle eastern people live here in Sydney, making it one of the biggest Levantine cities of the world. Waiting for our turn to put our case for a better price for Queensland veggies in 2017, we got chatting with a bloke from Western Australia who has resuscitated a lamb meatworks by processing goats. In three years he has gone from a semi-trailer a fortnight to …

High tech tractors not for farmer fingers

Colin Jackson Reader's Views

GOT A NEW TRACTOR. It has most of the high-tech stuff, although we avoided the SCR ad blue engine and kept to the faithful power we knew. And it has two cup holders — so we can plough all day with a starter coffee and the ice cold water to follow — plus automatic draft and super-steer to make the end of rows easy. But tractor designers obviously have to closely observe farmer fingers. Most are the size of sausages, but battered from hooking-up implements, grabbing tools and wrestling fence posts. Not piano playing fingers. So why do tractors have radios with buttons so small and so close that a child’s fingers even would push in two or three at a time. What’s wrong with a large dial knob to change channel or vary volume? That tractor is going good, but the radio has nearly been bashed with frustration by stubby fingers.

Why Big Mining loves Big Green

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

THE LABOR/GREEN coalition in Australia has declared war on coal, oil and gas. So why is Big Mining not fighting back? BHP Billiton is a big producer of coal, oil, gas, iron ore, copper, nickel and uranium. Rio Tinto is a big producer of uranium, coal, iron ore, copper and aluminium. Glencore is a big producer of coal, copper, zinc and nickel. And Shell is big in oil, gas and bitumen, manufactures biofuels, and generates peak power with natural gas. These companies employ competent geologists, physicists and chemists who could tell them that CO2 is not a pollutant and is not the primary driver of climate. They must know there is no scientific justification for the green war on hydro-carbon fuels — but none of these big miners speak out against this baseless war on their products. Some even waste shareholder funds producing glossy brochures promoting the green agenda. Big Mining is not that dumb. Their climate concern is more motivated by self-interest — they see long-term profits flowing from the silly green agenda. They are also political cowards. Wind and solar power are indeed ‘free’, but to extract electricity from them is not free — it needs turbines and …

Farmers: SuperStream is the new standard — have you made the change?

Colin Jackson Bush Chat, Current News, Reader's Views

AGRICULTURAL ENTERPRISES and farming businesses employing 19 or fewer employees (small businesses) that haven’t converted to SuperStream, the new standard for all businesses nation-wide, are being reminded by the Australian Taxation Office that their next super guarantee payment should be through a SuperStream compliant option. Instead of the old, manual methods like cheque or direct deposit, SuperStream is the new standard for all businesses nation-wide, which involves making super contributions electronically, thus saving time and money. Those paying superannuation on behalf of farming employees will now be able to pay contributions to multiple super funds in one transaction. Farming service businesses were required to implement SuperStream by October 31, 2016, meaning their next super guarantee payment should be through a SuperStream compliant option. According to ATO Deputy Commissioner, James O’Halloran, those who haven’t yet finalised their transition need to choose an option that best fits their business, such as upgrading payroll software, engaging with their tax agent or bookkeeper, or using a clearing house. Super funds will also have a range of ways they can help employers make the change. “SuperStream is the way all businesses must now be making super contributions for employees,” Mr O’Halloran said. “However, if you …

In rarified aircon, more public servants, less service

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

IT CAN BE a bit of a cop-out to blame the many and various government problems (backpacker tax, water, reef, roads, dams, etc, etc, etc) on ‘Canberra’ or ‘Brisbane’. And many of the officers in the depleted regional offices do their best, but increasingly are forced to shrug their shoulders as even minor decisions — let alone policy — is decided in the bloated Brisbane bureaucracy. But, and this is a big BUT for those on poor or non-existent internet and mobile services working all hours to get the crop off or the fencing finished — the level of ‘public service’ is beyond the pale. Here are two personal examples: After several months’ notice to get a simple land transfer through, we had this response one day before settlement. The bureaucrat left a message (with that special public service system where they don’t leave a return number or it is blocked) that they wouldn’t have the approval in mid-November but “hopefully before Christmas” because so many staff were on stress leave. What about the stress that caused us! We didn’t get the money in our bank as planned, the buyer didn’t get to take-over the property as expected, staff were put …

dsc_0018

Xenophon should realise MDB water originates in the far north of the nation

Colin Jackson Current News, Reader's Views

TODAY’S Weekend Australian carries a story of how Senate powerbroker (a term used by the unctuous media) Nick Xenophon is holding the Federal Government to ransom in a clash over the Murray-Darling river system. He is demanding an expensive deal on water reform as the price for his vote on government bills. It’s called blackmail — from a state that takes from the rest of mainland Australia and gives bugger-all back (except quality wine). South Australia will also give this island nation, the size of Europe, extremely costly submarines over the next 50 years, of which we will get a limited number. Much water will go under the bridge (figuratively and literally) in that time. The populist politician who is propping-up his parliamentary tenure by demanding all for his backward state, and not considering that the water belongs to Queensland first and foremost, is one of the culprits not looking any further than hand-outs to prop-up a lacklustre, apathetic state government. Xenophon’s ultimatum sent the Turnbull government reeling late yesterday (Friday) amid fears its workplace relations reforms could be put in limbo, cruelling plans to legislate new curbs on unions when parliament resumes on Monday. Well, I have an answer …