A lie gets half way around the world before truth can get its boots on.
When Boer war veteran and shearer, Charles Pike left Dookie in Victoria in 1912 his entire possessions were in a covered wagon pulled by four horses. With him was his wife Catherine, his four boys, Doug, Charles Jnr., Norman and Keith (my Father) and some chooks.
Six days later they arrived at Farm 58, Fivebough, in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area to start a new life in irrigated agriculture about which they knew little.
The farm was 60 acres in area and had only four corner pegs and a water wheel from the Main Canal.
From camping under some pine trees on the new selection to a producing orchard with a home made from hand cut and sawn timber from the surrounding hills was achieved with incredible hard work over ten years.
In 1928 Charles Pike acquired a large area farm at Gogeldrie and began growing rice which is still carried on today by members of the family.
Also around this time Alice Tuckett, a widow with 14 children arrived by wagon from an unprofitable dairy farm in Victoria and settled on an irrigation farm near the Pike’s at Gogeldrie.
My Maternal Grandmother Alice and Paternal Grandfather Charles were true pioneers of the irrigation industry in the Murrumbidgee Valley and the MDB and their descendents are still actively involved in the irrigation industries.
Both families had suffered the hardship of droughts in Victoria and were determined to start a new life, although like most settlers had no knowledge of irrigated cropping.
But with hard work, adaptive skills and some help from Government agencies, they over time prospered.
Alice due to her sheer determination and courage successfully settled seven sons on seven rice farms.
Both families were very aware of the need to both improve farming techniques and work with nature to improve every aspect of their farms.
My Grandfather was constantly telling all who would listen, ”that we have an obligation to hand land on to the next generation in better shape than when we acquired it.”
This diligence to improve all aspects of land management and its productive capacity has continued throughout the ninety years since these hardy and resourceful settlers began transforming the barren plains of the Riverina into the efficient food bowl that it is today.
So how did it become possible for the descendents of these environmentally aware settlers to become the scapegoats for all the supposed problems in the MDB?
We did not defend the truth!
When Bob Brown made his now infamous speech claiming that the Murray was dying.
We said nothing.
Most people in the Basin quietly said to themselves; that’s rubbish and assumed that most others knew it to be rubbish.
When Paul Sinclair went on the ABC and said: There is one thousand kilometres of the Murray Valley where all of the river red gums are dead or dying. It is like driving from Melbourne to Sydney and seeing nothing but dead trees either side of the road.
We said nothing.
We knew this was false and again assumed that others also knew.
When the Wentworth Group, Tim Flannery and many others kept saying the Basin had been mismanaged and that irrigation extractions were destroying “The Environment.”
We said nothing.
We knew this was false and incorrectly assumed that most others also knew.
Then opportunistic Politicians became involved and with no understanding of the situation whatsoever, saw an opportunity to grandstand by being seen to be fixing a huge problem.
A problem sensationalized by the Media but only existing in Politicians and some journalists minds.
What followed was an Act of Parliament supported by both sides of Politics that saw the setting up of a new Bureaucracy.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority, which now has a staff of over 300 people and spends huge sums on consultancies; only to produce a 260 page plan that is based on all false assumptions and false premises.
It was only when this plan became public and it was apparent that productive capacity within the MDB was to be drastically reduced for no practical reason, that people began to respond and show their anger at what had happened.
It would not have reached this situation if we, the people, had stood up and defended TRUTH when it was under attack.
We allowed this to happen by not defending TRUTH.
Once the seriousness of the situation being suggested by the MDBA report, became apparent there was an immediate groundswell of response across the Murray-Darling Basin.
Because most farmers are totally preoccupied with their day to day activities and the need to be totally involved with keeping food on the table for their family; the response was led by some very determined and articulate farmers wives, who were assisted by other concerned citizens.
Irrigator representative bodies also became involved, but it has to be said that they were also missing in action while all of the false information was freely flowing across the public landscape.
Once bodies like the NSW Irrigators Council became active they did play a roll in co-ordination of the various opinions and numerous bodies that wanted exposure.
From that point we have all witnessed on national media the huge local responses which have highlighted some of the concerns of citizens who live in the Basin.
However, this has not in any way resulted in a change of attitude at the bureaucratic level as we witness a taxpayer funded misinformation media campaign presently running.
Positive and practical outcomes that would benefit the environment, all people living in the Basin and have positive flow-on effects for all Australians for generations are not even being considered let alone discussed.
What we have with the Murray-Darling Basin discussion is a great example of what can happen when good and honest citizens do not stand up and defend TRUTH.
The wonderful, sustainable and productive environment developed on the dry plains of the Riverina by my Grandparents is being trashed by radical environmentalism based on lies.
TRUTH and our children’s future are under attack.