Cobar Water Supply September 2019

The Situation

The Cobar population is 3,990 (2018 Census) with a few hundred pastoralists and miners beyond the urban area. Cobar obtains its water from the Burrendong Dam, 390 km to the south-east. Water restrictions are in force and it is assumed water consumption is encouraged to be around 150 L/p/d, that is 598,000 litres – say 600,000 litres per day (0.6 ML) or 220 ML/year. This is in line with other regional centres experiencing water shortage.

The 2017-18 Water Report released by Cobar Shire Council summarises water consumption under its jurisdiction:

Distribution Mega Litres
Cobar Shire Council  (1) 1395
Peak Gold Mine                           474
Endeavour Mining 726
Cobar Management  (2) 933
Minor Consumers (3)  60
Total (4)                         3588
Pumped from Nyngan Weir (5)                         4034

1 Cobar Shire Council data includes consumption for domestic, business, agriculture and industrial users. With an estimated domestic consumption of 220 ML/year, other consumers aggregate 1175 ML/year.

2 Cobar Management – this is water supplied to the CSA Mine. 

3 Minor Consumers – users obtaining water along the Nyngan-Cobar pipeline.

4 The difference between 4 and 5 is 446 ML – water loss/other users?  

Cobar Water Supply

The town water supply is obtained from the Burrendong Dam, 390 km south-east of Cobar. From the dam water is pumped 190 km to Warren on the Macquarie river then along the 75 km open Albert Priest Channel to the Nyngan weir pools; finally by pipeline for 130 km to the Fort Bourke filtration plant in Cobar.

The Burrendong Dam has a capacity of 1,188,000 ML but, due to drought, capacity has reduced to 4.6% (54,608 ML) and declining. Currently water is being released at 150 ML/day equivalent to 34,750 ML/year. This is a serious situation since current capacity is 54,608 ML and falling. Without rain the dam will be empty before mid 2020. On 16th September on ABC AM, the Deputy Prime Minister warned that the dam upon which Dubbo relies, could be effectively out of water by year end.

The Cobar allocation from Burrendong Dam has been reduced from 3,588 ML (2018) to 1,850 ML/year, equivalent to 5.1 ML/day. Daily release from the Burrendong dam is currently 150 ML/day. Working on a drought allowance of 150 L/p/d the daily distribution in mega litres might be Cobar 5 (includes industry etc), Dubbo 11 with the balance of 136 applied to industry, irrigation and other rural settlements.,  With water restrictions in force and the Cobar population consuming 150 L/p/d this equates to 0.6 ML/day, which permits 4.5 ML/day for agricultural industrial use. Domestic consumption appears to be in line with Tenterfield and Orange.

History Ancient and Modern

Cobar has no natural water supply. With the discovery of copper in 1869 water has remained a critical problem. Initial supplies were from a small earth dam. Later in-ground tanks were constructed that were filled from local runoff. In 1942, the Albert Priest Open Channel was constructed from Warren on the Macquarie River to the Nyngan Weir Pools. Water was then freighted by rail to Cobar. A 131 km pipeline to Louth on the Darling River was mooted but rejected. A modern water supply was completed in 1963 with the construction of a 300 mm pipeline between Nyngan and Cobar. This was expanded by the addition of a 375 mm pipeline a few years later. The system operates under the Cobar Water Supply Act 1963. Corrosion has developed in the 300 mm line and a $10 million repair and upgrade of the Nyngan storage weirs is planned.

The Cobar Shire has recently circulated a plan, “Nyngan Cobar Water Security Paper’, recommending replacement of the open Albert Priest Channel by a pipeline with a project cost of $70 million. There are concerns by the irrigation industry in Nyngan Shire that it would be disadvantaged if this plan is adopted.

Future Development Restrictions

The Cobar Shire Council has advised that, under the provisions of the Water Management Act 2000, water allocations to Cobar from the Burrendong Dam cannot be increased to service expanding industry or mining activity. New water requirements must be purchased from existing license holders. This policy has the potential to inhibit population and economic growth throughout the Central West and north to the Queensland Granite Belt.

Mining companies operating round Cobar have been warned by the Shire they may have to cease operations by December 2019 due to declining levels in the Burrendong Dam. In May, dam levels were at 6.0%; by September levels had fallen to 4.6% capacity; by December capacity with increased evaporation, could decline below 3.0%.

Since July 2018, the River Murray system has remained in the driest 7% of records over the past 114 years. The Bureau of Meteorology has estimated that there is a 50% chance an El Niño will develop in 2019 and this estimate is double the normal likelihood at this time of year. The current weather system will be exacerbated by a sudden stratospheric warming event (see last page) moving from the Antarctic into southern Australia. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the last event over southern Australia occurred in 2002 and caused increased warming during the summer months – again during a severe drought at that time.

The Last Drop

Cobar has no local effective water supply and relies on pipeline water from the Burrendong Dam, 390 km to the south-east. The dam is at 4.0% capacity and will be effectively empty by yearend. Water will have to be imported using NSW Railways. Since the system is radial on Sydney. the option for obtaining water from the southern supplies, except by road haulage, are restricted. Sydney’s principal water reserve, Warragamba Dam, is at less than 40% capacity and has extracted water from the Shoalhaven to top up its own supplies.

On ABC AM, 16th September, the Deputy Prime Minister spoke on water shortage in New South Wales. In particular, Dubbo (population 76,000 – 2016 Census) would be without water by yearend. Rationed at 100 L/p/d this equates to nearly 7 mega litres per day. The Deputy Prime Minister mentioned a National Water Grid Authority is to be created to attend to water security and distribution across eastern Australia. However, a lead time for results was not specified. A penultimate comment was “It must rain eventually”. It was a depressing interview. Concluding this penultimate paragraph is a further example of Government futility under crisis. Barnaby Joyce is appointed the sinecure of Drought Envoy by the Morrison Government. No report is required and nothing has materialised  except SMS messages to the PM, estimated cost to date $200,000 for this quango.

The Minister’s observation that Dubbo could be out of water by yearend reinforces the warning by Cobar Shire that mining operations may have to cease by the end of 2019. The Central West will still be hoping for spring rains between September and November but the BOM forecast is not encouraging. It is now probable, however, there will be water transfer from Windermere Dam (31% capacity, 20th September) to the Burrengdong Dam to supply emergency water to the Central West.

Sudden Stratospheric Warming  30 August 2019



Cobar Water Board, ——–, History NSW Government, 2000, Water Management Act 2000 NSW Department of Primary Industry, 2007,  Cobar’s Mining History Nyngan Observer, 2 June 2017, Albert Priest Channel Cobar Weekly, 21 June 2017, Cobar Water Health Standard Cobar Water Board, 2017-18, Annual Report Daily Liberal, 2 February 2018, Cobar Water Supply Utility Engineering, 11 May 2018, Infrastructure Upgrade Cobar Shire Council, ——– , Water Cobar Shire Council, April 2019,Water The Guardian, 24 May 2019, NSW Towns face Water Emergency Water NSW, 2 September 2019,Regional Water Availability The Guardian, 23 September 2019, Barnaby Joyce, Drought Envoy

John Hugh Hill   Current Affairs Flash Points

Tenterfield Water Supply August 2019

KL-1 thousand L, ML-1 million L, GL-1 billion L


There is growing realisation that New South Wales, and more generally southeast Australia, is facing an emerging water crisis. Evidence for this situation is:

  • In February 2019, the Mayors of Bathurst, Dubbo, and Orange met with bureaucrats from NSW Water to discuss water supply.
  • In June 2019, the NSW Government announced that Tamworth, Orange, Cobar, Tenterfield and Guyra were facing critical water shortages.
  • In July 2019, desalination plants were installed at Walgett, Bourke and Tenterfield to produce potable water from saline bore water.
  • Water is now being carted to Murrurundi, Upper Hunter.
  • The Tenterfield town management, in a statement on water supply, intimated there are thirty-eight centres in NSW with serious water supply problems.


There are 4086 Tenterfield residents serviced by the Tenterfield dam which has a capacity of 1393 ML. By mid-August reserves had declined to 32% (445 mega litres) and falling rapidly. Water consumption is around 700,000 L/day (nearly 1 mega litre per day) which is equivalent to 171 L/person/day. The Administration has successfully reduced consumption from 1.3 ML per day. With reserves falling by a few percentage points each month due to increasing evaporation, increasing pressure on use, pipeline/treatment losses and lower level anoxic water, there is less than one year supply of potable water. To extend dam life, a desalination plant has been installed alongside the Shirley Park bore which supplies one mega litre  on alternate days to the dam then on to the water filtration plant.

The Tenterfield dam is located a short distance upstream from the township. It was constructed in 1930s and was refurbished in the 19050s. As a precaution against violent natural events, the dam wall was reinforced at the request of the NSW Dam Safety Committee in 2016.

Water restrictions are in force and inhabitants are requested to make extra effort to limit consumption. Despite tight controls, the Tenterfield Shire Council has expressed concern at the high rate of draw down from the Emergency Dispensary Station. Through over use, consumption has increased to 171 L/p/d – that is 700,000 L/day. The problem is that many residents maintain stock on their small township properties that continue to use the town supply rather than bore water. This situation is compounded by the National Resources Access Regulator, which has denied access to the Apex Park bore for stock use, retaining this water, presumably, for emergency use.

By July 2019, the water reserve had reduced to 32% and is declining rapidly. Despite restrictions, consumption was running at 700,000 litres per day, which is almost a mega litre.


Some months ago, the Shirley Park bore was refurbished to supply between 600,000 to one million litres per day of saline water to the dam. At the end of July, a desalination plant was installed alongside the bore that now treats 70-75 kilolitres per day which goes direct to the filtration plant. The bore also produces one mega litre on alternate days which is pumped into the dam.  The desalination plant was provided by Rural Aid, an unfunded non-Government organisation, at a cost of $120,000. Several towns and villages intend to obtain a similar plant.

The Tenterfield Shire Council has requested consulting geologists, Geo9 PL and Zoic PL, to select sites, run a drilling program and test bore water for immediate use. If these investigations are unsuccessful the Shire Council has indicated water will ultimately have to be imported.


The objective of the Drought Management Plan is to provide the community with a functional and sustainable water supply during extended drought. Currently, the drought is at Stage 4.5, with dam level at 30% capacity; this permits water consumption between 170-240 L/p/d. At Stage 7, with a dam level at <10% water consumption will be reduced to 100 L/p/d. At current Stage 4.5, the Shire Council will now be considering alternate water supply options. In the event “water storage is depleted Lismore’s water supply would most likely be commissioned”.  Under these conditions, consumption in Tenterfield would be reduced from 0.7 ML per day to 0.35 ML/day (85-100 L/p/d). According to Council this would require twenty tanker loads per day, each of 20,000 litres, to satisfy this requirement.

Using Freight Metrics –Truck Operating Calculator, a pre-feasibility estimate for water cartage costs between Lismore and Tenterfield is $768,000 per month.

Parameters are:

  • Lismore to Tenterfield return -350 km.
  • B-Double tanker – 24 tonnes.
  • Cost per trip – $1,587, say $1600.
  • Truck movements per day – 20.
  • Working month – 24 days, 6-day week.
  • Cost per resident (4086) is $790 per month.

Cartage costs appear to be the same order of magnitude as those quoted by the Southern Downs Regional Council for water cartage to Stanthorpe and Warwick. Is the NSW Government considering the implication of this information for perhaps another 38 towns/townships in the State?


In an ABC program aired on 23rd July under the title ‘Country Towns approach Day Zero’, the populations of Walcha, Tenterfield, Cobar, Naromine, Nyngan and Stanthorpe received special mention. The Southern Downs Regional Council, Queensland, adjoining Tenterfield Shire, has imposed Critical Water Restrictions on Stanthorpe and Warwick limiting water use to 120 L/p/d. For the Southern Downs region, it is estimated water cartage will accrue monthly costs between $0.5 and $1.5 million depending upon cartage distances. With a worsening water situation in southern Queensland and north/central New South Wales, there is an increasing bio-security risk as cattle transport washing stations close down.


Despite the severity of the NSW water shortage, bureaucratic process is being maintained. The Mayor and CEO of Tenterfield Shire met with the Minister for Water, the Hon, Melinda Pavey, early in 2019, seeking urgent assistance for Tenterfield’s developing water shortage. Resulting from this meeting, the Cross Border Commissioner and the Regional Supply Coordinator arranged a meeting on the 4th June 2019 with representatives from the Department of Industry-Water to discuss funding mechanisms, water bore drilling, expenditure approvals, time lines for delivery and accountability for program delivery. This has enabled consultant hydrologists to commence work.

At a recent meeting of the Border Region Organisation of Councils, the term ‘natural disaster’ was used to describe the regional situation. The NSW Minister for Water was reluctant to use this language as tourists might misinterpret the term!

Of the bigger picture, the NSW Government has spent $650 million on water infrastructure during the past eighteen months. In addition, the Federal Government has spent $1.3 billion on water resource projects across Australia via the National Water Infrastructure Fund. In a report dated 3rd July 2019, the only expenditure relevant to NSW water security was a Department of Industry unidentified commitment for $75 million.


With water reserves in the Tenterfield dam set to disappear within a year, water security for the township appears to rest on the Shirley Park bore producing a mega litre of water on alternate days and a proposed drilling program directed by consultant hydrologists. This investigation will take several months before sustainable supplies can be confirmed. If an emergency supply becomes necessary, then water from the Apex Park bore might be released. However, trucking in water will probably eventuate as stated in the Council document. When the drought breaks the long-term problem remains. This is a South East Australian problem, not one for a rural township.


  • Tenterfield Star. 19 February 2019. Dam Levels.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council. 2019. Dam Safety Upgrade.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council. March 2019. Drought Management Plan.
  • ABC North, 9 March 2019. Tenterfield Water Crisis.
  • Tenterfield Star. 2 April 2019. The Apex Bore.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council. 17 April 2019. Level 4.5 Restrictions.
  • Tenterfield Star. 21 May 2019. Bore shores up Water Supply.
  • NW Daily Leader. 4 June 2019. Water Restrictions.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council. June 2019. Update on Water Situation.
  • ABC News. 23 July 2019. Country Towns approach Day Zero.
  • Daily Leader. 30 July 2019. Desalination Plant at Shirley Park Bore.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council. August 2019. Water Supply and Restrictions.

JOHN HUGH HILL    Current Affairs Flash Points

Orange Water Supply July 2019

KL=1000L,  ML=1,000,000L  GL=1,000,000,000L

The Problem

The population of Orange is about 40,000 (2018) and is increasing by 1% a year. Working on historical summer and winter water consumption (table below) daily usage per person is 183 L. This computes into a daily consumption for Orange of 7.3 ML which amounts to 2.7 GL per year. Full storage capacity is about 24.5 GL but water storage is only 34.6% (July) and declining, which is about 8.5 GL. Level 5 restrictions are due to commence when water reserves fall below 35%. This deteriorating reserve situation has been progressing during the past four years, as illustrated by the records: 2016-100%, 2017-75%, 2018-50%, 2019-34.6% (June).

The Orange water supply relies on a network of small creeks as it is distant from major rivers or dam sites. Average annual rainfall is 900 mm and declining. The several water storages and facilities with capacities (GL) and current reserves (%) are:

Storage/Facility Capacity  GL Reserves  %
Suma Dam 19.8 26
Spring Creek Dam 4.5 68
Macquarie River 7.7 ML/day None
Ploughmans  Creek 1200 ML/year None
Blackmans Creek 1300 ML/year None
Water Bores Unknown Unknown
Gosling Creek Dam Recreation Reserve
Lake Canobolas Recreation Reserve

Historical water consumption litres/person/day reflects summer and winter drawdowns:

Month 2016 2017 2018 2019
March 287 285 349 229
June 170 178 170 137

Averaging the 2019 seasonal variations, consumption is 183 L/p/d or 2.7 GL/year against a declining reserve of 8.5 GL. This may permit consumption until early 2021. Because no data has been sighted for distribution loss, agricultural entitlement, evaporation or black (undrinkable) water,  the reserve will be less than quoted.

Water Resources and Facilities

The Orange City Council has generated several reserves and collection facilities, however, there is no large storage to draw upon. Declining water reserves might possibly be augmented by capricious rainfall cells or from bores into a basalt aquifer. Details are:

Suma Dam or Suma Park Reservoir

The dam is located 4 km east of Orange. It was constructed in 1962 with a capacity of 17.3 GL and was later upgraded in 2016 with a capacity of 19.8 GL for a cost of $18 million. By June 2019, storage had declined to 5.2 GL – 28% capacity. Suma dam replaced the aging Spring Creek reservoir.

Spring Creek Reservoir

This is a minor embankment dam located 2 km east of Orange. It was completed in 1931 with a capacity of 4.7 GL. By June 2019, storage had declined to 3.2 GL – 68% capacity and falling.

Macquarie River Pipeline

The 39 km pipeline was completed in 2016 by Geotechnical Engineering Ltd at a cost of $26 million. The facility is designed to transfer water to the Suma dam using pumps delivering 7.7ML/day. In 2017, the Macquarie river flowed at a modest 506 ML/day; for a short time discharge into the dam was 13.4 ML/day. Since early 2019 the water level has been too low for the pumps to operate.

Ploughmans Creek Water Harvesting

This facility in the Orange urban area directs 10-20% of storm water run-off to holding wetlands from where it is pumped to the Suma dam. The installation was constructed in 2009 for a project cost of $4 million. This project was a new initiative and a national first for augmenting water supply. Since commissioning, results have been disappointing and for the year ending June 2019 off-take was only 4.6 ML.

Blackmans Creek Water Harvesting

This facility collects urban run-off for storage in a 2000 ML wetland before transfer to Suma dam. It was completed in 2009 for $5 million. Run off was anticipated to be 1300 ML/year, however for the first six months of operation, only 260 ML was obtained.

Water Bores

There is extensive use of bore water for domestic and agricultural purposes but records have not been sighted. Orange City Council indicated that NSW Water is the authority to approach, information is awaited. The water source is fractured Tertiary basalt that underlies Orange; water is also obtained from the Macquarie alluvials. NSW Water states ground water in the Orange region is of good quality and extraction rates are sustainable but there are signs of extraction stress about the urban area.

In 2011, the Council applied to NSW Water to supplement the urban supply by extraction from the basalt aquifer; an extraction licence has apparently been granted with the proviso that existing users and entitlements will not be affected.

Two issues require clarification:

  • There appears to be no accounting for bore water in the consumption figures; this implies domestic usage is higher than stated.
  • Storage reserves could be higher if ground water was included.

Gosling Creek Dam

This is an embankment dam 4km south of Orange. It was constructed in 1890 with a capacity of 0.4 GL. It was decommissioned in 1962 with the opening of the Suma dam. In 2007 Cadia Mine was granted use of this resource for mining purposes.

Lake Canobolas, formerly Meadow Creek Dam

The Meadow Creek dam, 10km south of Orange, was constructed in 1918 with a capacity of 4.5 GL. The dam was decommissioned in 1962 and renamed Lake Canobolas. It is now within a recreation reserve with water transferred from the Suma dam to maintain water level. The name originates from Wiradjuri language. cona-shoulder and booloo-two which relate to the two peaks of Mt Canobolas.

Future Water Supplies

The backdrop to future water supplies for Orange is a meeting in February 2019 between Central West mayors of Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo with Government representatives and the recent installation of desalination plants in Walgett and Bourke to treat salty bore water. The looming water shortage in NSW is becoming a National issue.

The Orange urban area is located in the headwaters of a river system with no extensive catchments upstream and no nearby large dam sites available. The current water security plan is to increase local storage capacity by 20 GL by implementing the following actions:

  • Drill five bores into the fractured basalt aquifer near the Macquarie river; extraction tests will determine the degree of water security.
  • In and around the urban area, use seven existing and yet to be drilled holes to extract water from the basalt aquifer and pump it to the Suma dam.
  • Pump storm water from the urban area via a borehole array into Tertiary basalt and Palaeozoic aquifers to serve as a storage and retrieval system.
  • Drill a number of bores designed to produce 1 ML/day for discharge into the Suma dam.
  • Investigate a future dam site at Lake Rolands,  45km south of Orange.
  • Investigate storage potential in adjacent valleys.


A second and longer term backdrop to already identified water shortage, is a 15% decline in rainfall over south-east Australia which has been confirmed by a consequent slow drying out of the landscape.

The proposed initiatives for short-term water security by extraction from Tertiary and Palaeozoic aquifers must be finite particularly with declining rainfall. It is relevant to note that for Australia, water from aquifers constitute 17% of accessible water and 30% of consumption. On current trend, both figures will increase with only one predictable result. The move toward larger storage dams is logical but construction will be to the detriment of echo systems and agriculture downstream.

Part of a solution will be to evaluate the Israeli system of water management and to consider the transfer of water from East Coast rivers. There are mutterings of extracting water vapour from the air, carried out on a large scale might precipitate unintended consequences.

The Last Drop

With quoted declining water reserves of 8.5 GL and an annual consumption of 2.7 GL, not including distribution losses and undrinkable anoxic water, there appears to be barely a two-year supply – this is against a trend of declining rainfall and increasing temperature.

The short-term solution proposes water bores in and around the urban area but this is not a long-term solution. NSW Water has observed there are signs of extraction stress in the basalt aquifer. The projected Rolands dam site cannot be part of the short-term solution.

The Orange water shortage is part of a State-wide problem that is part of an emerging National problem. Individual solutions may vary but a National management program will be required.


  • Orange City Council, 3 May ’05, Lake Canobolas Sanctuary
  • Orange City C0uncil,3 Dec ’07, Spring Creek Reservoir
  • Geologyse PL, Nov. ‘09, Ploughmans Creek Storm Water Scheme
  • National Reserves Commission, Nov. ’10,  Central West Ground Water
  • Orange City Council, 2010, Storm Water Harvesting
  • Orange City Council, 2011, Gosling Creek Reserve
  • Dept. Primary Industry, 2012, Young Granite Ground Water Source
  • Central Western Daily, April ’13, Our Most Precious Reserve
  • Orange City Council, June ’16, Hydrology Monitoring Program
  • WIN News, 6 July  ’16, Suma Park Dam
  • Geotechnical Engineering, 2016, Suma Park Dam Upgrade
  • Orange City Council,  7 July  ’16, Managed Aquifer Reserve
  • Earth First, 9 March ’18,  Ground Water Australia Week
  • Clear Water, June ’18, Orange Storm Water
  • Central Western Daily,  3 April ’19, Level 4 Restrictions
  • Central Western Daily, 30 June ’19, Orange Water Supplies

John Hugh Hill   Current Affairs Flashpoints

Tamworth Water Supply June 2019

(KL=1000 L, ML=1,000,000 L, GL=1,000,000,000 L)

The Problem

The population of Tamworth, NSW, and environs number some 45,000. Currently the region is experiencing a prolonged drought. In addition, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast El Niño conditions could continue into 2020. To conserve water Stage 3 restrictions are in place. The Tamworth water supply is principally derived from two dams, now at critically low levels. The Dungowan dam is at 27% capacity – 1.6 GL and the Chaffey dam at 24% capacity – 25 GL.

With no consistent rain forecast the situation is serious since there appears to be approximately a little over a one-year supply. It is unknown if the quoted capacity has taken into account dead water which limits irrigation and also at a lower depth deep undrinkable water. The Tamworth Regional Council is casting around to augment declining reserves.

The Situation

Details on dams supplying water to Tamworth are:

  • Dungowan dam – located 50 km south east of Tamworth – it was built in 1958 with a 6.3 GL capacity. By mid-2014 water supply reserves had declined to 1.6 GL. There are plans to increase capacity to 22.5 GL but progress stalled when feasibility estimates rose to $440 million from an original budget of $150 million.
  • Chaffey dam – located 45 km south east of Tamworth – it was opened in 1971 with a 62.8 GL capacity. This was increased to 100.6 GL capacity in 2014. By mid-2019 water supply reserves had fallen to 25 GL. In 2017 there was a proposal to increase capacity to 120 GL but there is no evidence of progress.

The planned consumption proposed by Tamworth Regional Council for 2018-19 and the projected short fall for 2019-20, in giga litres, is summarised:

  • Essential Supplies                    8.2
  • Reserve for 2019-20               14.0
  • General Security                       4.5
  • Horticulture &Disinfection       1.9
  • Evaporation & Operation         5.0

TOTAL                                   33.6

  • Available Resources               30.6
  • Projected Shortfall                    3.0

Declining dam reserves of 25.0 plus 1.6 ie 26.6 represents either slippage or
a make good of 4.0 GL from other sources. The estimates indicate Tamworth
may be out of water by mid-2020.

The Chaffey dam provides water to the agricultural industry. There are around 192 irrigation licences with entitlements to 48.3 GL per year along 590 km of the Peel River drainage system. Production includes cotton, wheat, lucerne, vegetables, trees, pasture, sheep and cattle. Entitlements have been reduced to 38% – 18 GL.

At current low dam levels two factors should be considered:

  • The lower water layers may become undrinkable. A NSW Government report found the lower levels of the Warragamba dam to be undrinkable – on this basis the remaining water in Chaffey dam might be suspect.
  • Depending upon the elevation of the penstocks a proportion of the current low reserves in Chaffey dam could become unavailable to agriculture.

Proposals for Water Security

The Tamworth Regional Council has proposed several measures to augment and provide a more reliable long-term water supply, these are:

  • Construct a 62 km pipeline to the Keepit dam north-west of Tamworth. This dam was designed to contain 425 GL but due to the drought and drawdown the dam is at 0.4% capacity – 1.7 GL – this is the lowest level since the drought of 1974. With demands from the Namoi region and the reported long term decrease in rainfall in south east Australia this plan could be ‘dead in the water’.
  • Increase the capacity of the Dungowan dam from 6 GL to 25 GL. Owing to the estimated construction cost of $440 million this project may remain shelved unless the Commonwealth Government intervenes.
  • Construct a 10-15 GL storage adjacent to the Peel river upstream from Tamworth. With increasing evaporation (1.8 m/year at Dubbo) shallow storage could be ineffective.
  • Reopening the Peel river (Paradise) Drift Wells. These wells penetrate the Peel river alluvials. They provided water for Tamworth until the 1950s. Pumping tests between 1977-1980 produced a maximum of 12 ML per day and an equilibrium output of 7 ML per day. Planned pumping tests will attempt to achieve a consistent 10 ML per day over a six months trial. Rehabilitation costs are estimated at $2.25 million which will be funded by the NSW Emergency Drought Relief Fund. This initiative is not a solution, it can only augment a reliable supply. The problem facing the Drift Wells is the combination of prolonged and more frequent droughts combined with a climate induced declining rainfall. River systems under stress will no longer be able to recharge the flood plain alluvials.
  • Water bores are planned for alluvials 26 km down stream from Tamworth. Similar limitations to those for the Drift Wells apply.


Impediments to the near term resolution for the Tamworth water supply are:

  • Water resources from alluvials can only augment, not replace, storage from large dams.
  • There is no guarantee rain will recharge the dams within the next twelve months.
  • The past two decades have witnessed a 15% decrease in annual rainfall across south eastern Australia resulting in an almost imperceptible decline in surface run off, declining river flow and a slow drying out of soils and alluvials.
  • Longer hotter summers will increase evaporation from water storage while livestock and human consumption will increase.
  • Infrastructure funding of massive water storage will become an increasing problem as the changing climate creates water shortages across south east Australia.

The above is not just a Tamworth problem, or a New South Wales problem –it is an Australian problem. Climate trends and modelling predictions indicate the tropical north will become wetter while the not so temperate south will become hotter, drier and subject to damaging rain cells.

To secure future reliable water supplies major infrastructure projects will have to be considered:

  • The construction of very large dams since the Chaffey and Keepit dams and others in NSW are no longer fit for purpose. An example of a water storage capable of providing increased security is the Argyle dam, WA, capacity 10,705 GL. Any dam location would require an extensive distribution system to service agriculture and population centres.
  • Construction of pipelines from eastward flowing rivers of New South Wales and Queensland into central New South Wales.
  • Deep drilling at depths beyond the near surface aquifers to tap into porous limestone, basalt and other permeable formations. This water might be at elevated temperature and contain chemical contaminants.
  • By mid-2020 the Tamworth water supply will be essentially exhausted and water may have to be bought in by rail noting however, that the principal Sydney supply, Warragamba dam, is at 40% capacity and declining.


Tamworth is facing a serious water shortage, which by Tamworth Regional Council estimates will result in a shortfall during 2019-2020 of about 3 GL. Rainfall might alleviate this situation in the short term, it cannot solve it. The proposed water from bores into alluvial sediments, deep bores or pipelines can only augment dwindling supplies, they cannot replace large storages.  The observed ‘drying out’ of south eastern Australia will play out in declining river flows and water deficient alluvials.

The solution to ensuring water security will involve feasibility into major infrastructure projects. This is not a Tamworth problem, this is a problem involving south-east Australia.


News Ltd., 2006, Sydney’s deep water supply undrinkableWater Industry Assoc. of Aust., 3 April 2009, Paradise Drift Wells, Third Report.Tamworth Regional Council. October. 2018, Water and Dam Information.Northern Daily Leader, 6 March 2019, Dungowan Dam.NSW Government, 8 March 2019, Peel Valley Water Allocation Statement.Water NSW, 10 June 2019, Regional Water Availability Report.Tamworth Council, 2019, Long term options for bulk water.


Current Affairs Flash Points


Description: Macintosh HD:Users:johnhill:Desktop:drought-statement-rainfall-deficit-data.gif

Water Security in NSW May 2019


Recent State Government announcements have expressed concern over potable water supplies for Cobar, Tenterfield, Orange, Tamworth and Guyra. Collectively, this water shortage is trending towards an unsustainable situation based on the current distribution system and changing rainfall patterns.

Global Perspective

To place this increasingly serious water supply situation into a wider context, reference is made to ‘State of Climate 2018’ by the Bureau of Meteorology. Summarised below are facts relating to the global trends:

  • Carbon dioxide concentrations have now risen above 405 ppm and are increasing at more than 2.5 ppm per year.
  • The addition of methane and nitrous oxide raises the carbon equivalent concentrations to 500 ppm.
  • Emissions from fossil fuels are still rising.
  • Global sea level has risen by 20-25 centimetres since 1880, the rate is increasing due to increasing melt rates from Antarctica and Greenland.
  • Ocean waters are becoming increasingly acidic.

The Australian Picture

The global changes are now reflected in irascible weather patterns over south-east Australia. This concerning situation has prompted a report by NSW Local Land Services titled ‘Climate Change in Central West New South Wales’. Principal points in this report are:

  • Australia’s climate has warmed by 1°C since 1910.
  • The frequency of extreme weather events has increased.
  • Nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1998.
  • Over south eastern Australia, autumn and winter rainfall has mostly been below average since 1990, leading to imperceptible ‘drying out’ and declining river flow.
  • Extreme fire weather has increased over the past fifteen years with wild fires increasing in intensity and unpredictability.

NSW Central West Region

Based on historical trends modelling for the Central West and adjacent region indicates:

  • In addition to the 1°C rise, temperature will increase by 0.7°C by 2030 and by 2.1°C by 2070.
  • Rising overnight summer temperatures will cause increasing discomfort. Energy demands, costs and greenhouse gas emissions will increase with air conditioner use.
  • Heat wave conditions will substantially increase above 35°C towards 2030 by an extra 10-20 days while, by 2070, there will be an extra 30-40 days around or exceeding 45°C.
  • Rising livestock and native fauna loss is to be expected due to a reduction in water resources.
  •  There has been a 15% decline in average autumn and winter rainfall over south east Australia, however, the relationship to the anthropogenic era has not yet been established. (BOM/CSIRO 2014)
  • Rainfall-modelling forecasts there will be a slight increase in spring rainfall but an increase in summer/autumn rainfall will be due to storm cells causing hail, wind and flash flood damage.
  • Annual evaporation, currently 1.8 meters at Dubbo, will increase across the region.
  • With increased temperatures, evapotranspiration and changing rainfall patterns, there has been a global trend of landscape drying. Anecdotal hearsay is that landscape drying is occurring over much of New South Wales.

Drought and Water Security in New South Wales.

The Department of Primary Industry has defined the current drought as the most severe on record with the Central West, Far West and North West regions the worst affected. These conditions extend into Queensland. The severity can be judged by the extremely low valley storage levels. Readings in May 2019 were Lower Darling – 1%, Namoi – 2%, Border Rivers – 7%, Gwydir – 10% and Macquarie – 12%.

The prognosis is that El Niño conditions are set to continue. With this information, the water resources and the long-term viability, at this stage, for five New South Wales towns, aggregating some 85,000 people, is a concerning social issue. Over the coming period each town, Cobar, Tenterfield, Orange, Tamworth and Guyra will be discussed with reference to current and future water storage, river potential, borehole water and pipeline delivery. The backdrop is the slow drying of the landscape.

Agricultural Adjustment

Trends indicate current weather patterns will intensify and morph into a more violent drier climate. Historical farming practice in New South Wales will have to adjust. The drip irrigation system developed by Israel may be applicable with modification to Australia’s drying landscape: markets to Asia may be generated by this change. Cereal production will decline but as the dry hot Queensland climate moves south into New South Wales, Brahmans will tend to replace current cattle breeds.

Drought hits Australian Wheat Supplies

See illustration next page (Geopolitical Futures, 24 May 2019)

Note declining wheat area and production – drought or climate change?

Source – Geopolitical Futures  24 May 2019

Current Affairs Flashpoints:




The Objective

The objective of this piece is to provide an historical setting to Caucasian racism and religious intolerance then, with the New Zealand atrocity as catalyst, present suggestions for multicultural harmony in Australia. These will be rejected as too radicle but hopefully discussion will result in a solution not just repair.

The Problem is History

     Civilisation once more requires a Cadmus to address the anger, atrocity, anguish and ignorance imposed by racism and religious intolerance lurking beneath the cloak of multiculturalism and to impose upon people a harmonious coexistence. Politically naive rhetoric must be replaced by an appreciation of history and today’s sociological and demographic reality. Effort must be directed towards the cause, not clearing up after an event.

     Islam and Christianity have a shared history and this has affected Western European culture, its origin lost in medieval mist. Shared history includes: the Crusades; the invasion of France and the occupation of Spain until 1492; the invasion of Austria to the gates of Vienna by the Ottomans between the 16th and 18th centuries; the 1916 Asia Minor (Sykes Picot) Agreement that saw the Middle East partitioned between Britain and France; the Balfour Declaration that facilitated the establishment of Israel inside Palestine. History entered the 21st century with terrorism, warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria that has exacerbated racism and religious intolerance.

     With the rise of mercantilist Europe from the 16th century, the seaborn Arab spice trade was lost to the Europeans. Prior to this, global commerce and trade was concentrated around south and east Asia while Europe remained a foggy peninsular on the edge of Eurasia. Since the 17th century, Western Europe increasingly controlled global commerce as maritime power increased. In rapid succession, Western Christendom benefited from the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, virulent eugenics and the acme of European Empires reinforced by an elitist monotheistic faith.

     In the cocoon of this Western culture, from early childhood the superiority of the white Caucasian race was inculcated into the population by myth, ballad, song, story, anthem, art, education, duty and national ethos. Those of us born as late as the 1930s and now in their eighties were so indoctrinated. Those born half a century later are increasingly unimpressed by the verities of yore but they will ultimately accept the benefit of multiculturalism provided economic conditions improve within Western society.

     The post WWII period in Australia witnessed an influx of British, Italian and Greek migrants. The term ‘multiculturalism’ appeared for the first time in political debate in the mid-1970s as a response to the Italian contribution to Australia. This term described the social situation, not one requiring policy or management.

Racism v Religious Intolerance

     We stand with the knowledge and baggage of history from which three strands to Australia’s multicultural problems may be deduced. Racism, religious intolerance and trade are at the centre of medieval conflict between Christendom and Islam. Religious intolerance was also endemic in medieval Europe and flourishes today. The schism between Catholic and Protestant in Australia continued strongly until the mid-20th century and is still with us as a divisive education system.

     Racism is the cultural acceptance that one ethnic group is superior to another. There are numerous examples world-wide.  Two examples suffice: in India the Nordic Aryans recognise superiority over the southern Dravidians; the European Caucasians recognised a superiority over non-white races, colonial or not. Australia has the twin problem of a culturally inherited racism through its association with Great Britain combined with the colonial racism of a settler society fearful of its safety or future stability epitomised in the White Australia Policy.

     The third form of racism that may be associated with religious intolerance is that espoused by extremist groups, examples being the Alt Right, Far Right, White Supremacists and now with a New Zealand connection, the Identitarians – an Austrian anarchist group. Catalysts for these movements are a perceived loss of national prestige, immigration involving different ethnicities and faith, threats to white males in society and fear of competition and exclusion within their society. The ultimate threat to Western society might not be terrorists from the Middle East but people like  Martin Bryant (Port Arthur), Anders Breivik (Oslo) or Brenton Tarrant (Christchurch) plus many American killers. There could be numerous disaffected males proliferating through the Western world. Unfortunately social and economic conditions among Western nations are conducive to rising angst.

Rubbery Definitions

Alt Right – an ill=defined group of White Supremacists/White Nationalists, white separatists, anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, neo-Fascists, neo-Confederates, holocaust deniers and fringe hate groups. According to the South Poverty Law Centre, Alabama, more than one hundred people have been killed by these groups in recent years.

Far Right – these groups espouse an ideology further to the Right of normal Conservative views. Members tend to be extreme nationalists with authoritarian tendencies. It has been established that Tarrant had contact with the Identitarian movement in Austria, a white nationalistic group with anti-immigration and nativist ideology.

White Supremacist – a movement based on the belief the white ‘race’ is superior to other races and should be dominant over them. The objective is to maintain the social, political and institutional domination by white people.

The hard core is made up of mature males but recruits will be found among unemployed disaffected youth. The 2018-19 unemployment figures are unacceptably high, being Australia–13%, United States–9% and Europe–8%: this translates into tens of thousands who may be susceptible to a cause.

Racism in Australia

     Bringing racism into the 21st century in Australia, the Government termed the 2005 Cronulla Race Riots a civil disturbance. More telling, is the result of the 2015-16 National Survey on Racism in Australia conducted by a team led by Professor Kevin Dunn, School of Social Sciences and Psychology, University of Western Sydney. The findings indicated there are high levels of antipathy towards various groups of Australians. Conclusions are:

  • 63% expressed degrees of intolerance/discomfort with Moslem Australians.
  • 51% expressed anti-Middle Eastern sentiment
  • 44% expressed anti-African sentiment
  • 79% recognise racism exists in Australia
  • 33% of participants had experienced racism in public, in the work place and in the education system.

With this bias towards racism and migrant intolerance, it remains to be tested how this might translate into sympathy, tacit or otherwise, towards extremist movements.

     When discussing fundamental sociological problems, there appears to be a reluctance to discuss Homo sapiens and its roots. This species is naturally suspicious of different tribal or ethnic groups due, in part, to an eternal competition for resources. Until the creation of the nation-state in Europe, it was a region of warring, fortified cities with their own ruling elite, and villeins protected by the ubiquitous military force. Today the social setting is similar with the addendum the industrial-military complex is the dominant global force.

Christchurch Aftermath and Suggestions for a Solution

     The Western World has changed, no longer are there Jihadists without but there are White Supremacists within. Greek mythology records Cadmus, bringer of civilisation, killed a dragon and from its teeth rose five warriors who together founded the peaceful city of Thebes.  Australia now requires a statesman with advisors who can create a harmonious multicultural society that is more than just a name – a Herculean task that requires the discard of ancestral baggage.

     Fast forward to the days following the Christchurch atrocity. Ignoring the initial breathless reporting, the ensuing discussions were “How could this happen in peaceful New Zealand” and on restricting news coverage of this and future events – the result and nothing on the cause – the solution. Hansards have been filled with the spoken or written word on stifling information or on society misfits but nothing on economic, sociological or marginalising demographic trends that are impacting on industrialised Caucasian society. Against this background is the requirement to reduce racism and religious intolerance both exacerbated by change, stress and overcrowded cities.

     It should not be forgotten that one hundred years ago there was a parallel to the anarchism developing in today’s society. The period 1880-1920 was one of great social tension, industrial change and a re-ordering of society. The period was rent by lethal militant anarchist movements throughout Europe and the Americas. Anarchism found fertile ground in Australia evidenced by the formation of the Australian Secular Association, the Active Service Commission and the Melbourne Anarchist Club. The most dramatic event was the bombing of a non-union ship, ss Aramac, in 1883 following the Maritime and Shearers disputes. After WWI, movements tended to fade away with rising prosperity.

     With hindsight, that Christchurch was selected for the massacre, should not be a complete surprise. There has been a consistent racist element in Christchurch for years. The Fourth Reich, a white supremacist movement, was formed in a Christchurch prison in 1994 and is active on the West Coast and in Nelson. Two recent murders have been attributed to this group. The Skin Head movement has been active for years round Christchurch. A chilling warning has come from Dr Paul Buchanan, Director, 36th Parallel Investments (NZ), a geopolitical risk company. Buchanan has acted for US government security agencies. He considers the White Supremacists present a real threat to New Zealand.

     Before proposing solutions to racism, religious intolerance and multiculturalism, it is necessary to consider the effect of Government policy and social pressure groups on the Australian ethos. Irrespective of the nature of first settlement by Caucasians, the history of settlement into a prosperous nation over the past two hundred years from 1800 to 2000, is being whitewashed from public perception. A trivial but significant cringe requires the eradication of ‘Happy Holiday’ and the reinstatement of ‘Merry Christmas’. Australians must recognise two facts – first, the immense effort and dedication of these settlers to create a modern society, and second, the fact that Australians enjoy a standard of living and democratic security based on the foresight of our forebears.

     Improved living standards were achieved by a settler society largely guided by Christian faith. Rising living standards and education have encouraged the rise of a secular hedonistic society. The social glue once provided by religious faith is loosing its grip resulting in a decline in peace, love and forbearance. Lay society is facing difficult conditions so now should all those with religious authority move out from their “House of Worship” and minister to the disaffected, the extremists and those with a lost faith on their own turf.

     Government should introduce a policy of “Make Australians Proud to be Australian” which will recognise success and progress, and that present society cannot be held accountable ‘for the sins of the fathers, but at the same time it must work towards equalising society.

     Five suggestions are proposed to reduce racism, religious intolerance, promote multiculturalism and ‘make Australians proud again’. These suggestions will probably prove too radicle for general acceptance.

  1. From early childhood to the completion of university/TAFE education implement instruction on the above four disciplines.
  2. Merge the education system to more closely reflect a multicultural society where religious schools are closed.
  3. Unemployed youth from age seventeen will be required to undertake two years of National Service. Trade instruction and course work would be compulsory.
  4. Government policy would be instituted to engage with White Supremacists and other antisocial movements to foster dialogue to establish common ground and reduce tension. The dialogue will recognise social conditions within Western culture and its implications.
  5. The extremist movements spawn killers. With New Zealand fresh in mind it should be noted that records from America indicate extremists have murdered 313 people over the past several years. (The Economist, 23 March 2019)
    How Britain dealt with the IRA might assist in formulating a policy in dealing with extremism in Australia.

    For a laissez faire Government, these suggestions will be unacceptable while in the community, vested interests will not contemplate erosion of the education system. Until a clear policy on this situation is operational, Australia will continue to experience pressure on its culture.

Current Affairs Flashpoints  –

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Australia’s Chinese Coal Trade May 2019

Chinese Perspective

      Early in 2019 the Chinese Government delayed or banned imports of Australian coal into the five ports of the Dalian region, north China, and limited coal imports from all sources into Dalian to 12 Mt until the end of 2019 – down from 18 Mt. Only Australian coal imports to other Chinese ports were to be subjected to Customs delays of up to forty days – an increase from twenty to twenty-five days.

      Imports through the port of Dalian amount to 14 Mt per year of which 7 Mt is supplied by Australia. This is equivalent to 1.8% of Australia’s coal exports to China. In total, China bought 28 Mt of coking coal from Australia which equates to some 43% of total exports.

      Vague reasons for the embargo on Australian coal have been provided including that the coal does not meet environmental protection standards. There is also comment that China wishes to protect and encourage its coal mining companies. Chinese traders have also mentioned that this is the first restriction without the provision of a valid reason. The embargo is now causing Chinese importers to approach Russian and Indonesian suppliers to negotiate expanded contracts.

      China is reorganising its domestic coal industry to achieve greater self-sufficiency: this involves the closure of illegal and uneconomic coal mines. There are also tensions within the industry because the annual growth rate since 2015 has been 11% but the underlying demand is falling by 1% a year. Consolidation in the coal industry has resulted in a 9% drop in coal production. The profitability of the industry has improved: it follows that imports from Australia are becoming undesirable. National coal stocks provide a little more than fourteen days worth for thermal and coking coal. If this embargo persists, coking coal supplies may tighten since Australia supplies 80% of China’s requirements. For thermal coal it is only 20%.
(CRU, February 2019, China disrupts Australian coal imports)

      If this embargo persists, it will assist China to become more self-sufficient, but manufactured products will become more expensive due to cost increase by Chinese steel makers. Conversely, Australian coal producers may be forced to find other markets at lower coal prices. Spot prices for Australian coking coal are around $A30/t cheaper than Chinese prices (Orient Futures). The price difference for thermal coal is about the same, but despite this, it is Government policy to promote the domestic industry.

      The CRU estimates Chinese steelmaking profitability has fallen from >20% EBITDA to less than 6%; this is lower than the United States steel makers. The Chinese authorities have made no distinction between coking coal and thermal coal although Dalian imports mainly coking coal. In the near term, domestic coal production will increase, offsetting any shortfall from Australia. With this new arrangement Chinese power prices will rise which puts the Government in a difficult situation as this is inflationary and will have a negative impact on Chinese industries.

Australian Perspective

      There has been a swift response to the measurers announced by China. The Australian dollar fell by 1% and high-energy thermal coal, ex-Newcastle, fell from $A123/t to $A88/t in a short period. Refinitiv, a ship tracking consultancy, indicated exports from Newcastle would fall by 30% from 18Mt to 13Mt (rounded). The delayed coal in transit and on vessels is equivalent to two months of Australian production. (, 18 February 2019)

       The value of forecast production for 2018 is anticipated to be $A25B for thermal coal and $A42B for coking coal. The embargo in the Dalian ports so far only accounts for 0.1% of the Australian economy, compared to the 3.7% of GDP contributed by total coal exports. (Nikkei Asian Review, 13 January, 2019)

      In gross terms, the 2018 Australian export income for its principal commodities are coal $A67B and iron ore $A64B; these will be affected by future Chinese policy. As the world’s largest coal consumer, China is moving away from coal-fired power stations that will put pressure on Australian thermal coal prices which are slated to fall from $A100/t to $A74/t by 2020. There will also be pressure on iron ore prices as China moves away from blast furnaces to electric furnaces as iron ore is replaced by scrap metal. Iron ore prices are projected to fall from $A70/t to $A51/t by 2020. (Nikkei Asian Review, 13 January, 2019)

The End Game

The Chinese Government is deliberately sending a message to the Australian Government. The anatomy of banning or delaying Australian coal imports incorporates several strands:

  • The Chinese Government is promoting the domestic coal industry and is providing an opportunity by restricting Australian imports.
  • No official reason has been given for the ban; the explanation for the action involving the protection of environmental standards is clearly spurious.
  • The Chinese Government is displeased with Australia’s decision on Huawei and 5G, and it is also displeased with Australian actions and rhetoric concerning Western Pacific activities and on innuendo relating to political interference.

The action by the Chinese Government is calculated and deliberate. It could be regarded as ‘a shot across Australia’s bow’.  Chinese foreign and military policy is slow but implacable. This is a nice problem for DFAT.

John Hugh Hill

Current Affairs Flash Points:

Indonesia Australia Trade March 2019

I A – CEPA Trade Ministers (DFAT)


Following years of negotiation, since 2012, the IA-CEPA was signed on 4 March by Trade Ministers Enggartiasta Lukita and Simon Birmingham. This Agreement now has to be ratified by the Parliaments of both nations. No sooner signed than Presidential candidate, Prabowo Subianto, stated that if elected on 19 April the document would be modified to protect Indonesia’s sovereignty and interests. There are prayers that Joko Widodo be re-elected as President.

Currents swirl round this Agreement. Since the Dutch departure from Indonesia some eighty years ago Australia has had difficulty making friendly contact across the Timor Sea. For such close neighbours they are culturally and economically far apart. Raw data does illustrate the difference. Both are among the largest global economies, Australia 13th and Indonesia 16th, but the mismatch in population of 25 million to 250 million highlights the vast difference in living standards, virtually industrial to subsistence, but with a rising Indonesian ‘middle’ class. With current growth rates over 5%, Indonesia is slated to be the 7th largest economy by 2030. Australia wishes to exploit this growing market. In 1991, America and Europe anticipated vast new markets in the Russian Federation – alas history continues.
Despite close proximity, Australia ranks 11th as an export destination to Indonesia and 8th as a source of export income to Indonesia. However, it is in Australia’s economic interest to more deeply penetrate this market. A recent estimate suggests there are some 300 Australian companies operating in Indonesia (12,000 in New Zealand) with a mere $11 billion invested in this 5,200 km archipelago. Bilateral trade historically has been low due to similar export profiles, incompatible culture and Indonesian government policy settings.
In 2017-18 bilateral trade between Australia and Indonesia aggregated $10 billion, about 2.3% of exports. Australia’s principal exports are wheat, cattle, beef, cotton, seafood, sugar, aluminium and crude and refined petroleum; imports from Indonesia include crude and refined petroleum, aluminium structures, timber and footwear.

Australia’s objective is primarily to increase exports into Indonesia couched in soothing language that will hopefully achieve a goal of “economic cooperation which will assist in the implementation of the agreement, support trade and provide a pathway for future liberalisation”.
This translates to:
* a reduction of impediments to trade goods,
* a reduction of impediments to the exchange of services and investments.

Beside agricultural products will be the establishment of university campuses with majority Australian equity: this is seen as a growth industry since there have been an influx of Indonesian students into Australia. In return, guest workers would be permitted into the workforce ensuring Australian dollars would be remitted to Indonesia. Ostensibly, this initiative is to forge economic relations to the next level but it is to build stronger ties between two peoples who are poles apart – a stealthy case of improving national security. Trade Minister Birmingham has spoken seductively of opportunities for agricultural exports but Indonesia depends heavily upon and is actively seeking to become self-sufficient in food production. Agriculture accounts for 50% employment and contributes 14% to GDP. Principal exports are palm oil, rubber, cocoa, coffee, rice, cassava, maize, fruit and seafood. For Australia, the agriculture, food and fibre sectors only account for 13% employment and 3% to GDP. (NFF)
Indonesia’s reliance on food production and quest for self-sufficiency could present a prickly front door to Australia’s food exporters. The Indonesian breeding protocol is a problem for Australian cattle exporters. Each five cattle destined for a feed lot must be accompanied by a breeding cow: this is a significant financial impost on exporters.

Despite close proximity markets will not immediately open. Much work is required to foster a closer commercial relationship. To achieve trading, two diametrically opposed objectives must be harmonised:
*Australia wishes to export agricultural produce, education and services into a rising market. This is starting from a low base, 2017-18 exports were only wheat $1.1 billion and cattle, sugar, beef, cotton, milk $1.6 billion. There was another $4.6 billion, aggregating 2.3% of total exports.
*Indonesia wishes to increase self sufficiency and protect its important agricultural sector.

Other issues facing Australian exporters are that:
* the Indonesian cattle trade has been opened up to India, Brazil, and Mexico.
* wheat supplies can now be imported from United States, Canada, India and the Black Sea.
* Indonesia favours local fruit growers by imposing seasonal restrictions, also local markets are being opened up to Northern Hemisphere producers.

Indonesia’s insistence that the trade deal includes guest workers for Australia raises an issue. Germany, the Gulf States and other countries bring in workers for construction, agricultural and domestic industries thus relieving their own citizens. Australia relies on back packers, Pacific Islanders, Asians, and now probably, Indonesian labour to work where Australian youth is not wanted or where there are perceived travel and or accommodation problems. For Australia with a fiction of 5% unemployment (which hides underemployment) and a 10% youth unemployment and foreigners doing unpopular work, social issues in Australia will not improve. Another problem, Australia is among the highest in the OECD in terms of labour rates: not good for exports and a probable source of friction with itinerant labour.
In a chance conversation, an exporter from America has stated that Australia is a difficult import market due to a plethora of bi-lateral trade agreements. A dark purpose might be revealed in a restrictive import policy that reduces Australia’s negative terms of trade.

Australian Trade Relationships with Indonesia. Australian Parliament, 2018.
Export Markets – Indonesia. DFAT, 2018.
Indonesian Trade Agreement. New Daily, 2018.

Current Affairs Flash Points:

World Economic Forum, Davos. February 2019

Committed to improving the State of the World

Shaping the new Architecture in the Age of the
Fourth Industrial Revolution
Creating a shared Future in a Fractured World

Several unwelcome messages have emanated from Forum 2019. The Global Risks Report produced by the President records the World is ‘sleeping walking’ into a crisis at a time when the World needs more than ever multilateral cooperation to solve complicated global challenges as divisions in and between nations are hardening.
(SMH, National Opinion, 20 January, 2019)
Commentators used the phrase ‘sleep walking into war (crisis) in the 1930s as European nations watched events unfold into WWII.

Seminal moments that illustrate impending problems were:
*The meeting between Prince William and Sir David Attenborough where the latest IPCC report was discussed.
*The release by Bloomberg of information indicating that since the 2018 Forum, the poorest half of the world has seen its wealth fall by 11%.
*An address to the Forum by Dutch historian Rutger Bregman urged the wealthy to stop talking philanthropy and pay more taxes. There was an adverse response from the assembled elite.

Business leaders and Government officials had gathered in Davos to discuss and solve global issues, particularly the increasing inequality which is manifest by increasing global social instability. There is now comment that the World Economic Forum is becoming a symbol of ongoing global problems rather than a solution to them.
(ABC News, 23 January 2019)

In layman’s terms this year’s Forum agenda reads “The next phase of globalisation will occur in a society that has become increasingly disenfranchised and divided due to rapidly evolving technology advances and competition”. According to Professor Wesley Widmaler. Department of International Political Economy, ANU, the Forum is not addressing the neoliberal global framework which is central to global economic problems today. The Forum is trying to solve poverty and rising inequality by modifying failed concepts that have caused the problems in the first place. Since the 2008 GFC, the neoliberal system – ie free market capitalism – has proved to be unstable and unsustainable.

In an address to the Forum, George Soros has warned of a problem which is currently submerged beneath the ‘Trade War” chatter across the Pacific. Soros warned of the weaponisation of data technology against individual liberty. China is now the wealthiest, the strongest and the most developed nation in machine learning: AI and 5G technology. The hype over trade wars is obscuring the unrecognised threat – the future control of the internet is at stake – enter Huawei. (SMH, National Opinion, 26 January 2019)

There is recognition that the Forum is deliberating in a fractured world characterised by the breakdown of international institutions which were established after WWII in 1945. ( Professor Richard Holden, Department of Economics, ANU. The Conversation, 26 January 2019) Decisions at Davos have been taken on the assumption that the IFC, WB, WTO and others are as relevant now as they have been over the past 70 years. This is no longer true.

Australia was present in force at the Forum. Finance Minister Corman, Trade Minister Ciobo and assorted industry leaders comprised the delegation that had hoped to promote investment and export opportunities for Australia.. The Ministers sought to attract big business to our shores to generate growth in the economy. Problems for investors will be Australia’s small domestic market, its requirement to develop export markets, high labour costs, power supply reliability, transport infrastructure and the 30% corporate tax rate, the third highest in the OECD.

In early February 2016, ’17 and ’18 Australia hosted lavish seminars dubbed the A50 Economic Forum for international fund managers – no seminar appears to have been arranged for 2019. No follow up reports on major investments resulting from these meetings have been sighted.

There is unease that the World Economic Forum will have difficulty fostering social and economic improvements in the global labour market or in encouraging trust between nations considering the range of global pressures. Globally the industrial-military behemoth is in the ascendent. (The Economist/SIPRI, August 2018)

George Soros may have picked up vibes from the Five Eyes meeting in Nova Scotia in July 2018. Discussions there were on the creeping Chinese dominance of global communications. The Five Eyes plus Japan are now blocking the sale of Huawei and ZTE Corporation technology to their respective countries. The cause for concern is that in 2017 China passed the the National Intelligence Law which gives the State power to force Chinese firms to obey State directives. These firms are poised to export their technology across the globe. Chinese preparation for 5G has resulted in the regime outspending the US by some $24 billion over the past several years. (Deloitte)

The problem for America is it cannot force companies such as Nokia, Samsung and Ericsson to cooperate whereas Huawei can provide hardware, chips and user devices which are equivalent to Ericsson, Intel and Apple rolled into one.

There has been a decade long race between China and America to construct the 5G infrastructure. The prize is not only financial – successful companies will control entities that use the new technology. Critically, 5G will be vital for military and intelligence applications. Currently, the US Military depend on commercial telecom networks. The fear is that China could turn off the networks leaving the the US virtually ‘blind’.

The bottom line is that China is poised to export 5G technology more quickly and cheaply and with more diplomatic support than Western firms. The dilemma for the Five Eyes is that, if they are unwilling to run military logistics networks without 5G technology, it will impact on their ability to sustain military partnerships abroad.
(Orchard, P. 30 January, 2019. 5G, China and the race to dominate High Tech. Geopolitical Futures) In a surprise move it Britain and New Zealand, Five Eyes members, and Germany are reviewing perceived threats posed by Huawei. These are significant cracks in the Five Eyes stance which has the possibility of placing Australia in an invidious position with respect to its major trading and security partners. (Geopolitical Futures, 20 February, 2019)

The advent of 5G will tend to push the world into the American and Chinese spheres of influence – Treaty of Tordesillas reincarnate!! The big question is – will the World Economic Forum be able to stride this divide and can it continue with current economic philosophy?

Current Affairs Flash Points,




Western culture is experiencing a barely recognised but increasing nostalgia. This phenomenon in not a simplistic return to ‘the good old days’ but it is a rising concern about the future. This is occurring following fifty years of unprecedented global economic growth following the end of WWII and decolonisation. This growing current of unease is flowing through United States, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia. Australia is becoming restive

NOSTALGIA – THE RAJ (New Statesman)

Manifestations of this nostalgia, cumulatively, are the growth of Far Right parties, white supremacist movements, polarisation between Socialist and Conservative politics, demonstrations and rallies over declining living standards, intractable youth unemployment, rising underemployment, a rising angst over automation and artificial intelligence, the implications of global warming, home ownership as a fading American and Australian dream and finally, the migration of alien cultures and religion into the fabric of European nations which is starting to destabilise Caucasian culture.

What may not be appreciated by many is that the world after WWII in 1945, the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the GFC in 2008 have totally changed the world order and its institutions. Old alliances are now less relevant and distrust between nations has risen as evidenced by exploding arms procurement programs.

Not yet given popular resonance is the increasing audible whisper that European economic influence is declining relative to Chinese and Asian population and their economic growth rate. This situation existed prior to the period of European maritime exploration and trade between 1500 – 2000. The wheel is now turning full circle!

European governments and grass roots movements are seeking to counter this growing malaise by harking back to former ‘glory days’ which incorporate heritage, conquest, trade, the Enlightenment, industrial development and, if not too controversial, Empire. These reflections on the past are intended to instil confidence in the nation and working for the future.

NOSTALGIA _ THE GOOD OLD DAYS (Aesthetica Magazine)

The rise and fall of the British, Russian, French, Spanish and Portuguese empires should not be regarded as isolated events but rather, they are merely part of a Homo sapiens continuum. The invasion and settlement of Canada, United States, Australia, Central Asia, South Africa, West Africa, Mexico and Brazil merely represents human activity over the past 8000 years. Since the commencement of the Common Era, excluding the Empires above, examples of invasion and settlement involved Romans, Mongols, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Khmer, Bugis, Murghals, and Austro-Hungarians. In the fullness of time, conquest, collapse or assimilation reduced their influence. In the latter part of the 20th Century, Tibet has been invaded and colonised by the China and West Papua by Indonesia. An objective of a New World Order would be to reduce invasion and colonisation but this may be contrary to the instincts of Homo sapiens. 
An ironic twist – Homo sapiens is currently making plans to colonise Mars. Conquest and colonisation is in the species’ DNA.

Australia is in an invidious position regarding this Celebration which will be wafted towards ‘We are One but We are Many” as a mantra to promote acceptance and camaraderie: a more substantive national ethos appears to be airbrushed out. The drive by European nations is based on a common ethnicity and a common culture. Australia shares this common heritage but due to growing ethnic diversity it is not politic to dwell on its cultural history and its projection into the future. Currently, due to the nature of early settlement, and until Australia’s history books are rewritten, the achievements of our very early pioneers may remain muted.

Alongside barbeques, national dancing and children’s races, far greater prominence should be given to the cumulative achievements of Aboriginals, Europeans, Chinese and Afghan settlers who, by their blood, sweat, tears and death created the Australia that we enjoy today. As a nation we need to generate a pride in our past as a spring board for confident progress into the future, The Australia Day message should promote:
*National Pride – confidence will be encouraged by commemorating past achievements, omitting political accolades, with plans of more to come. Australia is more than sport, far greater prominence should be given to achievement in Science and the Arts. The Armed Forces and their Battle Honours, not their peace keeping abilities, should instil national pride.
*National Harmony – ‘We are One but We are Many” will suffer from repetition and group photos of cross cultural meetings will provide grist to this ditty.

Declining self esteem and nostalgia are reported as an emerging problem among the European nations. The old social and political systems are in flux and Democracy is under challenge. The political class is now under close scrutiny. Politicians, by their nature, are usually unable to make complex decisions; there is a built in expediency with one eye on their electoral base. This is no way to run a complex system. Government must become more technical, independent of donations and less partisan for the 21st Century.

The heyday of politicians unfit for purpose should be entering twilight tears as technical experts make rational decisions that affect progress and the wellbeing of the Nation.


What has happened to Us. 2 January 2019. Geopolitical Futures.
The uses of Nostalgia. 22 December 2018. The Economist.

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