EVER SINCE Gough Whitlam took charge in Canberra, Labor governments have not been all that keen on the states, which they see as impediments to their high-minded and ever-practical policies for national betterment. Canberra and your local council -- they have been advanced as the twin instruments of true democracy, a philosophy that, just coincidentally, gains louder expression whenever conservative state governments (and Big Ted Baillieu’s too) are in power.
This week, for example, Environment Minister Tony Burke is expected to veto a Victorian proposal that would have seen a few cows released into half a dozen fenced-in pockets of the High Country, the object being to see if they nibble on enough of the alpine scenery to reduce the risk of bushfire. The Greens don’t like the idea one bit, so the federal minister has found a few, allegedly endangered frogs which his department’s empire builders have nominated as Canberra’s justification for trumping the Victorian government’s sovereignty and intentions. The standoff will no doubt end in court. In the meantime, the recent rains will spur astonishing growth in grass, shrubs and trees, meaning more fuel to make the next fire a scorching, soil-sterilising catastrophe. The Greens will then blame that on global warming and demand a further crimping of practical, enlightened policies of bush management.
That is not the point of this post however, which has to with the folly of Federation. How much better would we all be if Australia was not one nation but a collection of rival political entities? Competition! Genuinely local government! No need to feed that black hole for public monies otherwise known as Canberra! The conflict between free traders and protectionists need not have remained an issue, as the states would have become test beds for the rival camps’ competing views on tariffs and taxation.
Alas it was not to be, and that is the reason why the Professor, who is visiting old mate Bob On The Murray, was yesterday obliged to purchase a NSW fishing licence in order to go after Murray cod, even though the line will only be cast from the Victorian side.
And while we are on the topic of the Murray, a word of praise for the Age. And yes, that is not a joke. The paper’s Geoff Strong also has been questing for cod (and cool drinks at the Barmah Hotel, a fine spot for a spot indeed), and yesterday he actually managed to report an environmental truth. Quoting a local couple, he wrote:
...the forest was being mismanaged and that extra water allocations that had taken the supply over what he believed nature would provide had caused the forest to become choked with masses of small redgum trees, which are growing so densely that large bird and other animal habitat trees were not able to form.
And do you want to know the funny thing? Those red gums aren’t “natural”, as Green ratbags and their unquestioning media publicists assert. Truth is, their proliferation is solely the consequence of man’s tampering with the Murray’s flow and course.
Even with a Labor-lite premier like Ted Baillieu at the helm, Victoria might not have been faced with the Barmah Forest’s accelerating degradation if not for Sir Henry-bloody-Parkes and his mates.