Water Use is a Political Issue

Water Use is a Political Issue
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Water Use is a Political Issue.

Many eminent people have made excellent presentations to the Murray Darling Basin Authority and various politicians describing how the Basin Plan is flawed and decimating the livelihoods of people in affected areas.

These presentations have regrettably had minimal affect on the Basin Plan.

While these presentations perform the essential act of addressing the errors, inefficiencies and other problems contained in the Basin Plan, they do not address the underlying political problem. The political problem is the foundation that supports the myriad other problems associated with the Basin Plan. To improve the Basin Plan, the political problem needs to be recognized, and a political solution enacted.

Safe Seats

If the quantity of water being removed from productive use is used as a measuring base, it can be concluded that the political representation of people living in the affected areas has been ineffective.

Unfortunately, electors within the Murray Darling Basin are not able to improve their political representation. This is because virtually all electorates within the Murray Darling Basin are safe seats. The sitting member in a safe seat has no genuine electoral competition and will practically always be re-elected.

sharman_stone_2014There is no electoral incentive or punishment for politicians in a safe seat to actually achieve anything, because he or she will be re-elected regardless. This lack of electoral incentive or punishment enables political complacency to develop. Even if representatives such as Sharman Stone (ex Murray in Victoria) very vocally express the needs of their electorate, the directors of the relevant political parties know that they can subordinate them to other political concerns, disregard them, and still win the seat in the next election.


Non Competition Understanding in the Coalition Agreement

The reason seats in the Murray Darling catchment are safe is because in practice only a Liberal or National party candidate has a genuine opportunity of being elected, and ordinarily these parties do not stand candidates against each other in Federal or State elections.

sussan-leyThough the National and Liberal parties are separate organizations, they have a coalition agreement that includes the understanding that neither party will stand a candidate against a sitting member of the other party. This means for example that the National party will not stand a candidate against Sussan Ley, who is the Liberal party’s sitting member for Farrer, and the Liberal party will not stand a candidate against Andrew Broad, who is the National party’s sitting member for Mallee.

Both these parties will damian-drumstand candidates when a Member of Parliament retires, such as in Sharman Stone’s previous seat of Murray (Victoria), but since the National Party’s Damian Drum won against the Liberals’ Duncan McGauchie in 2016, the Liberal party will not stand a candidate in the next election.

The non competition understanding in the coalition agreement creates a safe seat. In effect, this is a political monopoly, and monopolies are invariably inefficient and ineffective.

Effective Representation

It is essential for the welfare of the people in electorates affected by the Basin Plan that they have effective political representation. As history has shown, effective representation will not occur while these electorates are safe seats. Effective representation will be gained when there is genuine competition among candidates for election.

The people in the electorates affected by the Basin Plan will gain far more effective representation if both the National and Liberal parties stand candidates in electorates, regardless of the sitting member’s affiliation. If both these parties stand candidates, there will then be an electoral incentive for both parties and candidates to achieve results i.e. they will be elected, or not elected. They will then genuinely compete against each other to achieve the electors’ desired results, to the benefit of electors.

malcolm-turnbullAt a national level, the directors of both parties will be confronted with the reality that they will lose or gain seats depending on the effectiveness of representation their party provides. This will give the directors the electoral incentive to achieve results for electors, and electoral punishment if they do not. Both parties will react accordingly, to the electors’ benefit.


With genuinely determined and effective political representation, the presentations and irrefutable evidence provided by the many eminent people who understand the destructive effects of the Basin Plan will then be heeded in Parliament, and their probability of improving the Basin Plan will increase very significantly.

For genuine competition to occur, the non competition understanding contained in the coalition agreement needs to be erased. These parties can have a coalition after the election, but during the election they should compete against each other.

Compete for the Public Vote.

To achieve the best result for people in affected electorates, the members of the Liberal and National parties, and people in the wider community, need to demand that the directors of these parties cease what is in fact collusion and detrimental to the electorate, and both compete for the public vote, regardless of the party of the sitting member.

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