Home' InDaily : September 10th 2010 Contents The Lower Lakes of the Murray
River will be full of water in just
over one month, as the environ-
mental benefits of Victoria s floods
counter-balance the property
damage of recent days.
Most of the rivers flooding
Northern Victoria will flow into the
Murray and send at least 900 billion
litres of water across the border into
SA over the next 45 days.
The Lower Lakes have been
plagued by chronic low flows and
environmental degradation, but
conditions have improved this year
on the back of floods that hit NSW
Murray-Darling Basin Authority
executive director David Dreverman
said this week s Victorian floods
would see the lakes fill and spill
towards the ocean by mid-October.
The lakes have not been full for
five years and the nearby Murray
mouth has been artificially dredged
for nearly eight years to try to retain
a connection between the river
and the sea, which is crucial for
Mr Dreverman said it was hoped
the surge would be strong enough to
flush accumulated sands out of the
Murray mouth and back to sea, but
he warned that refilling the lakes
did not mean their environmental
problems had been solved.
He pointed out that the one
environmental negative out of the
floods could be increased salinity,
as spills over the top of riverbanks
were likely to wash the contents of
highly saline flood plains back into
the river system.
But he said some of that salt could
be washed completely out of the
river to sea if the flow was strong
"We have never seen a period so
long without major over-bank flow
and so we are not sure how much
salt has accumulated in that time
and how much will be mobilised,"
Total water storages across the
Murray Darling River system are
now above 50 per cent of capacity,
and the MDBA is poised to release a
new plan for reducing water extrac-
tion from the river on October 8.
Despite the recent improvement
in water availability, Australian
Conservation Foundation spokes-
woman Arlene Harriss-Buchan said
reforms to the management of the
river needed to continue apace.
"The long-term implications of
having too many water entitlements
issued to extract too much water
from the basin is still the major
cause of environmental damage in
the basin -- and that still needs to be
addressed," Dr Harriss-Buchan said.
News that heavy rainfalls in the
eastern states and locally will lead
to increased levels in the Lower
Murray has been welcomed by
Hammond MP Adrian Pederick.
Mr Pederick, whose electorate
covers most of the river and lakes
between Lock 1 and the Murray
Mouth, said the increased flow
would bring relief to the region.
"This is water we didn t dare
dream of. The drought and low
river and lake levels have been so
dominant in every aspect of life here
that this massive inflow has brought
life and hope to thousands of South
Australians," he said.
Recent heavy rain in SA s
south-east also means five gigalitres
of water is on its way to the Coorong
southern lagoon. The lagoon gets
inflows from the South-East Drainage
Network, which drains water from
the agricultural land and channels
it to the Coorong. The inflows add to
the first freshwater in four years that
flowed into the Coorong s northern
lagoon this week.
Friends of the
Coorong s Pamela
Gillen says she
hopes inflows will
see native fish
returned to the area.
"In late 2003 they
shut the barrages
for the first time and
that s when the real
degradation for the
started," she said.
"That s the last year
we caught Coorong
mullet down here.
Hopefully with the
pumping project and
this water coming
in it will dilute the
in the southern
said this week the
bund -- an artificial
dam that closes
Lake Albert off from
to stop Lake Albert
acidifying -- would
be removed "quite
But the increased
Murray flow has
also increased the risk of riverbank
slumping and cracking levee banks
south of Blanchtown.
"The re-wetting of those banks,
particularly where there are
buildings and other infrastructure,
will require careful monitoring and
prompt repair," said Mr Pederick.
"The State Government must
not assume the river s problem is
-- with agencies
9The Independent Weekly
September 10 - 16, 2010
state politics Tom Richardson
Iwas really, really hoping, planning
and expecting to be nice to the
Government this week. I was
really, really not very nice at all last
week -- not unfair, mind you, just not
very nice. And after all, one must
ideally be balanced, mustn t one?
And, indeed, there s plenty
to be written about the fact that
Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond
has largely been the Invisible
Woman over the past few months,
and has been getting away with
being the Invisible Woman because
so much attention has been focused
on why Mike Rann has suddenly
become the Invisible Man, which
is really far more interesting and
perplexing but in truth no more
deserving of scrutiny.
So I had intended to be nice to the
Government this week, but, well, the
best-laid plans often go awry.
Mike Rann left this time last week
on a 10-day business trip to India
and Singapore. It is quite a feat to
actively drum up bad publicity for
such a trip, but it is a feat that the
Premier and his media advisor, Jill
Bottrall, managed to perfection.
With the Premier due to depart
last Thursday mid-morning,
I started putting calls into his
office around 7.30am to request
an interview to discuss his trip. A
number of calls and an answering
machine message were not returned.
Eventually, I decided to take matters
into my own hands, and headed
down to the airport with a camera
crew in the hopes of snaring a few
words with the Premier. En route, I
sent a text message to Ms Bottrall,
explicitly asking: "Can we pls speak
to the Premier about his trip?"
No answer. And no sign of him
at the airport. Members of his
entourage trickled through the
security gates, but Mike Rann was
nowhere to be seen. Finally, to our
bemusement, another TV news crew
from a rival station arrived and
strode purposefully through to the
departure lounge. As it turned out,
their calls had been returned, and
they had been invited to the airport
to conduct an interview.
So we decided to tag along to see
what happened. We followed them
through to the Qantas Club Executive
Lounge, where we were greeted
by the Premier and Ms Bottrall as
though our attendance was expected.
Would we mind waiting for a few
moments and Mike would be happy
to talk to us? Of course.
We discussed his trip, and also
recent matters of interest, such as
the peculiar way he had announced
the end of water restrictions and his
non-attendance at the anti-climactic
D-Day event for Adelaide Oval.
As we departed, I asked his media
advisor whether she had received
"Yes," she said, "We got them".
"What, so you simply chose not to
"That s right."
"But you invited another network
for an interview. Is this the policy
now, that you pick and choose who
you want to talk to?"
"That s right."
"And Channel Nine is being
"That s right."
"Because we re allowed to. You
guys decide which of our press
conferences you attend, so we can
decide whose calls we want to
Now, for a start, yes, all networks
make a judgment call on govern-
ment media opportunities, as they
do on every news event, based
largely on news value and the
resources available to them.
Moreover, yes, technically, this is a
free country and anyone in it can opt
to avoid conversations with anyone
But most news reporters are paid
by their networks to report the news.
Politicians are paid by the public
to govern. Part of this contract in a
democracy involves being account-
able to the media, who represent
the public in holding politicians to
If members of the public
don t like the questions, or the
manner in which they are asked,
they will simply turn to another
media outlet. If they don t like the
Government, they will vote against
it. It is completely unacceptable to
close channels of communication
between the press and the executive
or legislative arms of government.
Ms Bottrall doesn t like to see her
name in print, and believes it unfair
to criticise her personally, since
she cannot respond publicly. I have
always endeavoured to respect this
belief, but I must make an exception.
I don t know whose decision it was
to deliberately ignore our interview
requests last week, or indeed to
grant an identical request from a
rival station, but it failed as both a
political tactic and a media manage-
ment strategy. It has exposed the
Government as insular, mendacious
and tricky, while turning a minor
news story (the Premier heading
overseas) into a major one (the
Premier trying to dodge the media).
Now let us try and consider things
broadly. Mike Rann was re-elected in
March with the overall loss of just
two seats, which would have been
the least of what Labor would have
expected as far back as 2006 when it
won its famous Rannslide.
But it was a bruising and stressful
campaign for the incumbent, and
some confidantes believe he is still
struggling to get past it. His relation-
ship with the media has never fully
recovered; his public demeanour has
been at times snide, embittered.
But there can be no doubt that the
past year has taken a toll on the man
who not so long ago was the most
popular politician in the country.
I can entirely understand why
the Premier might be well and truly
tired of fronting the media, or at
least various of its representatives.
But I m not convinced the public
would share my empathy. It was
the public, after all, who re-elected
Rann for a third term and, one would
presume, elected him to do a job, not
to skulk about like somebody who
makes me thinks of a sociopath with
Despite never having enjoyed
widespread unflappable support
in the broader ALP, Mike Rann
inspires immense affection and
loyalty among his insiders. They
would have shared the lows of the
election campaign, and their advice,
one presumes, may reflect a similar
disillusionment and resentment.
It is one thing for a politician to be
sick of dealing with the media, but
if a media advisor is sick of dealing
with the media, it is perhaps time to
consider other options.
Of course, I am not the first SA
journalist to be "blacklisted" by the
Rann Government, if indeed that
is what has happened. I follow a
long and esteemed line of reporters
which at various times has included
Michelle Wiese Bockmann, Michael
Owen, Hendrik Gout, Matthew
Abraham and David Bevan. Like
those journalists, I don t intend
to stop asking questions, at times
difficult questions, on behalf of
my network and our viewers. If the
Government chooses to dodge those
questions, it must be judged on its
Bottrall's modus operandi
Victoria's floods bring some good news for SA
The floods that have devastated Victoria will fill SA's lakes.
Photo: Jeremy Bannister
I had intended
to be nice to the
Government this week,
but, well, the best-laid
plans often go awry.
Links Archive September 9th 2010 September 14th 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page