Opinion Piece by Warwick Lorenz, Managing Director of Australian Pump Industries.
Three young bushwalkers decide to cross over a mountain range to see what’s on the other side. They stumble on a huge world of sparsely populated wilderness, ripe for development. Imagine the excitement of Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson as they grasped the possibilities of the huge expanse of the New South Wales western plains. Imagine their thoughts of colonial expansion, building a better life, for the overflow of Europe’s crowded, polluted cities.
The consequent colonial expansion that followed, to some extent driven by a breed of Spanish sheep is the story of modern Australia.
Our huge island continent provides lifestyle that’s the envy of the world. The wealth of our mines and resource industries is the engine of the economy. Our highly professional but fragile rural industries are all based in a continent as big as the United States of America or China but stunted by a tiny population of only 25 million!
It’s even more disturbing that the demographics of the country are that 60% of us live in four cities, while 80% of us live within 40 kilometres of the coast.
It’s a nice life but meanwhile instead of Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson’s dream of a great virile nation grappling with the same urban explosions that we see around the globe.
It is not only Australia that has an issue with urban growth. We struggle with the idea of cities like Sydney or Melbourne being gorged to 8-10 million people. We struggle with the idea of the traffic and the movement of people.
It’s not just us. The world is going through a trend where the advent of modern mechanical agricultural equipment is emptying the countryside’s and enlarging cities. Those farm workers who aren’t I.T. experts are becoming cannon fodder for the factories. 50% of the world’s population now live in cities and tens of thousands join that throng every day. Imagine world population of 7.5 billion people on the planet, 4 billion are living in congested cities competing for power, water, even oxygen.
Every time a world bank gives 100 John Deere tractors to a previously primitive agricultural Third World country we put hundreds of men and women out of work. Where else do they have to go but the cities. Once there, they require food and fibre but are unable to provide it themselves. It still has to come from farms somewhere on the planet. The work they must do must be peripheral to those primary functions that keep the human race alive. A man living in a cupboard-sized room in Hong Kong produces no food or fibre but still has to eat and be clothed.
There may be only 25 million of us but we have a major role. With $60 billion worth of agricultural production each year, even with gluttonous appetites we can only consume around $20 billion of it.
That means we export $40 billion per year to the urban populations of Southeast Asia. Would they buy more? …. You bet! They’ll buy as much as we can produce, so why not produce more?
That’s the tricky bit.
To grow more we need the resources of sunshine, soil and water. We’ve got loads of soil and oodles of sunshine but when it comes to water we have a big issue that can only be solved by a national effort. Fiona Simpson, President of the National Farmers’ Federation has an ambitious target of producing $100 billion worth of agricultural products in Australia within a matter of a few short years. Without massive changes to the way we harvest water, her noble ambitions are really only dreams. If the drought of the winter 2018 has taught us anything, it taught us that.
Drought proofing the inland, providing water security to farmers is not a new idea. Long before Luscombe’s book there were plans of damming rivers and turning them westward to recharge the great Artesian basin. It’s encouraging the CSIRO has the courage to put forward the plan to do this in a world where they know it will be criticised by Greens, environmentalists, politicians of some persuasions, academics and intellectuals. In other words, a vocal minority who will yell and scream about the effects on the environment whilst telling us that Australia is doomed to bushfires, droughts and floods.
Even our farmers are apathetic and are being told to accept charity in the form of handouts as a substitute for action to prevent drought! Since Global Warming has morphed itself into “Climate Change”, it seems that we’re stuck with typhoons, cyclones and droughts on a more frequent basis than the past. If that’s true there’s all the more reason to protect ourselves and our industries. If that means Government action, harnessing the financial, engineering and scientific talents of Australia then why not?
WATER IS LIFE! We hear brilliant schemes from the Immigration Department about putting immigrants into country towns for five years! The hope is that they’ll want to stay there.
What the Immigration Department hasn’t figured out is what these people are going to do to make a living. Without water and the subsequent growth of production which, equals opportunities for processing, there is no job growth. Those immigrants that are told to go live in a country town for five years, will drift to the cities eventually.
All of this comes back to the same old thing. Without massive government intervention, a huge national water catchment and management project, nothing will happen and we’ll be doomed for much of the same.
Just to scare the life out of myself and everybody else, lets imagine a world where the USA has become increasingly isolationist. Where they lose interest in the South Pacific and the two great powers of the area, India and China wind up being the big players. Australia is already in thrall to China with a huge amount of our economic well-being dependent on their factories.
Even BHP’s beautiful and brilliant ad about their production of coal and iron ore tells a sad tale. The ad implies that BHP is a massive player in the international steel industry. So, it is, but only as a provider of raw materials.
It’s really simple, water to the land, increase population with immigration based on merit and push to make ourselves as relevant to the international scene as possible. Imagine driving over the Great Dividing Range and finding the equivalent to the US’s Midwest, the productive farmland helping to feed a growing global population. That land will be put to work one day, whether by us or one of our neighbours.
As they say, if change is inevitable, don’t fight it, embrace it.
Let’s hope somebody tells that story to our politicians, whatever their political persuasion. After all, the future of our great Country needs positive leadership from people with genuine commitment and an ambitious vision for the future.
Further copies of information including “Drought Proofing Australia, the Possible Dream”, Water Security and others are available from Warwick R Lorenz at www.aussiepumps.com.au and from Aussie Pump distributors throughout Australia.