Home > Environment > Vote Yes in Toowoomba

Vote Yes in Toowoomba

July 28th, 2006

The struggle of science against stupidity (and, in some cases, selfish interest groups) is being fought out on a number of fronts – creationism, global warming and passive smoking to name but a few. Tomorrow the venue moves to Toowoomba where a proposal to deal with a drastic water shortage by recycling effluent is being opposed by a know-nothing scare campaign, whose proponents have neither credible arguments nor an alternative to offer. I’m happy to endorse people’s freedom not to drink recycled water if they don’t want to. Their local supermarket offers chemically identical spring water at around $1/litre, so if they don’t want to drink what comes out of the tap at $1/kilolitre, they don’t have to. But they shouldn’t make their fellow-citizens suffer for their irrational squeamishness.

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  1. brian
    July 29th, 2006 at 01:44 | #1

    Can anyone tell me why this mad obsession of some, especially the young,for carrying bottles
    of water everywhere.with them
    Today in Melbourne,in the street on a cold winter day ,I passed a squad of brawny teen-age shoolboys,each carrying the regulation bottle of water(in a City with the best tap water in Australia too!!)
    None, I think , were threatened with hypothermia ,as it was only 14 degrees!
    I see containers of water carried every…and this wasn’t always the case!…So why ???

  2. Kanga
    July 29th, 2006 at 01:49 | #2

    If the Queensland government were being run by a bunch of 9 year old children with a new mechano set I could understand the crazy overdevelopment here and the ridiculous technofixes for needless water crises. At the end of the day the children could go home and leave their tin soldiers and plastic models to wither and die in the sandpit.

    The insult added to the injury is that, not only do I have to put up with the over development, the overpopulation, the loss of fresh water, the trashing of nature, the dumbing down of the education system and the loss of democracy to the technocracy of a federation of fools, but I am going to have to pay more for it all.

    That is, if I survive it.

    If it were only fear of drinking sewerage – but my fear is of dying of thirst.

    In 50 years time when there will probably be even less rain and much less fuel to run our disorganised eutrophic, progressively more uneducated society. There is absolutely no guarantee and plenty of doubt that there will be a government capable of managing these complex technical solutions that are being forced upon us all.

  3. July 29th, 2006 at 01:53 | #3

    My objection to recycling is that we will become dependant upon yet another complex technology, itself dependent upon greater energy inputs in an era of declining fossil fuel reserves, in order to supply a basic human need.

    Isn’t it time we began to question the sanity of encouraging ever larger numbers of people to come here, if we can no longer meet their needs without having to build ever more complex and expensive systems?

    In the last 15 years, South East Queensland’s population grew by 1,000,000 with the encouragement of both Federal and Queensland Governments(1).

    It would appear that the Queensland Government had not bothered to think through the consequences of this reckless social experiment as the water crisis, housing crisis, threatened power crisis, health and education crises and traffic congestion now demonstrate. Not content with this mess already created, which we are told requires the flooding of the Mary Valley and for the residents of Toowoomba to drink recycled sewage to ‘fix’, the Queensland Government now wishes to add a further 1,000,000 by 2026.

    The reasons for policies which are clearly harmful to both our environment and to our existing residents need to be better understood.

    I would suggest that these policies serve the interests of land speculators and property developers, which can only be met if an ever growing population drives up the demand for the land which they have been able to monopolise. In the short term they gain huge unearned windfall profits through the transfer of wealth out of the pockets of other Australians or from other countries through immigrants, but in the longer term, after this short term wealth has been expended, we will find our country overpopulated with nowhere near enough water or other natural resources to maintain decent living standards.

    Footnote(s)

    1. According to a documentary about Queensland’s water crisis on a commmercial TV station around a month ago.

  4. Austin
    July 29th, 2006 at 06:34 | #4

    “My objection to recycling is that we will become dependant upon yet another complex technology, itself dependent upon greater energy inputs in an era of declining fossil fuel reserves, in order to supply a basic human need.”

    This is true. A high population density requires technology, without there would be major crisis. Just look at any high population density city around the world when it looses it’s technology. New York is an example I will never forget. Take electricity away and the whole city is in crisis.

    The difficult question is, how much is too much? I have thought about this for a while and I have no way to answer it. There must be a better answer than infinity, which is the current target.

  5. Terje (say TAY-A)
    July 29th, 2006 at 09:09 | #5

    My objection to recycling is that we will become dependant upon yet another complex technology, itself dependent upon greater energy inputs in an era of declining fossil fuel reserves, in order to supply a basic human need.

    I think the point is that such technology should supplement the supply from dams, not replace it. If the technology breaks down there is still dam water. Most of the energy that goes into cleaning sewage has to be expended in any case in order to avoid polluting the environment. I think that your case is not strong.

  6. Terje (say TAY-A)
    July 29th, 2006 at 09:21 | #6

    The primary public objection to using recycled water would appear to be the “yuck” factor. If only people knew what was already in our dams in the way of dead animals and other sh!t.

    Personally the only real yuck in the sewage that bothers me is the risk of heavy metals. However I am pretty sure they have got that covered as well. If it was my water suppy I would however be asking questions.

    I also think that harvesting storm water should be a priority.

    I still think it outrageous that installing a water tank in Sydney was illegal for so long. It really represents a major case of government stupidity. A real case of coerced collectivism that we are now paying for. Why are we so routinely against people going it alone and doing their own thing?

  7. Kanga
    July 29th, 2006 at 09:49 | #7

    Terje at http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2006/07/28/vote-yes-in-toowoomba/#comment-62587, says

    “I think the point is that such technology should supplement the supply from dams, not replace it. If the technology breaks down there is still dam water. Most of the energy that goes into cleaning sewage has to be expended in any case in order to avoid polluting the environment. I think that your case is not strong.”

    Are you suggesting that the recycling would just be for frivolous uses?

    Have you considered that the next unnecessary and resented costly million people in Queensland will have children and place more and more reliance on these fragile and flawed human engineering solutions?

    As Austin implied, the current limits on conflict between population growth and natural resource limits seem to be infinity, which is fine on a drawing board, but ridiculous and murderous in real life.

    And, on the way, we are already looking at constant, irritating conflict over land costs, loss of farmland and homes, loss of democracy, rising cost of basic natural rights, loss to wildlife of water dedicated to this complex anthropocentric system, likely privatisation of the recycled water to ‘off-set’ the costs, leading to water nabobs lording it over an unwashed and abandoned populace of fringe-dwellers Rio di Janiero style. Who is driving this population growth and the focused benefits of inflation? The engineers, the banks and financiers, the property developers…

    Who is paying the diffuse costs?

    The rest of us. The people who really may be more interested in nicer things rather than too stupid to dedicate their lives to making lots of money out of the misery of their fellows.

  8. Kanga
    July 29th, 2006 at 10:21 | #8

    The “Yuk” factor

    Terje says on the ‘yuk’ factor:

    The primary public objection to using recycled water would appear to be the “yuck� factor. If only people knew what was already in our dams in the way of dead animals and other sh!t.

    Terje, the so-called “yuk” factor just looks like spin to me that is designed to make anyone objecting to these idiotic proposals to complicate access to the primary biological necessity of life, look silly.

    The fact is that the ‘yuk’ factor is a straw man constructed by the promoters and beneficiaries of the profits allied to the population growth enabled by water recycling (banks financing engineering projects, property development, land speculation etc). The purpose is to concentrate the public energy on knocking the strawman off its stick so that the wider, cogent and more easily defensible objections never get public attention.

    It is very difficult to defend environmental and safety objections. This is because they are scientifically complex and we no longer have access to facts (due to commercial-in-confidence political trickstering) nor to scientists who can freely express their opinions (due to corporatisation of public science bodies).

    What is easier to defend and harder for the beneficiaries of complexity to knock down is my charge that this is leading to the erosion of democracy manifest in loss of control over access to the most basic necessities of life.

    It is easy to show what is happening if you ask the questions that all good economists should ask in the case of water recycling for population growth:

    Who benefits? and

    Who pays?

  9. July 29th, 2006 at 11:13 | #9

    I’ve played Rugby on a pitch that was watered with recycled and supposably drinkable water. If you got even the smallest graze it would tend to get infected.

    If I lived in Toowomba I’d have seruious doubts. But I’d probably be more informed as well…

  10. July 29th, 2006 at 11:44 | #10

    “Would it not have been better to use the ‘waterless loo?’
    And wear you clothes twice, exceptions allowed with underwear. Towels do not need to be laundered daily, if used by the one person. I was raised on small mixed farm below the range. The science of waterless toilets has come a long way since the out-door thunder box.

    I am glad the cities are feeling the drought, it is the only way they will think. Farmers and country dwellers have had to battle the lack of household water as well as water for animals and irrigation, long before the city realizes there is a lack of water. ”

    I have also posted to a ‘Courier Mail,’ item, but no idea it will be published.

  11. July 29th, 2006 at 12:01 | #11

    Austin wrote: The difficult question is, how much is too much?

    You may find the PhD thesis of Michelle Graymore, completed in 2005, to be of Interest. it is entitled “Journey to Sustainability: Small Regions, Sustainable Carrying Capacity and Sustainability Assessment Methods”. it can be downloaded as pdf files from here.

    The thesis is focussed on South East Queensland, on which Toowoomba, 140 km due west of Brisbane, borders. It poses he question of what a sustainable population would be, if we were not artificially supported by fossil fuels, as we have been for the last 100 odd years, or did not draw natural resources from outside the region (a situation, which Beattie wants to exacerbate with his Traveston Dam outrage) the low population figure (well below the one million mark from memory) she gave for the region’s carrying capacity was quite worrying.

    Even if we don’t wholly accept Michelle Graymore’s numbers, it defies all rationality that, in our current circumstances of natural resource shortages, our political and business leaders choose to go on increasing the population in order to build more houses and infrastructure in order to further increase population in order to build more houses and infrastructure …

    North American Eastern seaboard power crisis of 2003 demonstrates vulnerability of complex systems

    Austin, thank you for pointing out the frightening example of the North American Eastern Seaboard Power Crisis of 2003. This further confirms the point I made recently on the “Against the Doomsayers” thread that reliance on ever more complex technology is not only going to lead to declining living standards as ever more of our energies are diverted towards maintaining them, but may lead to the total collapse of our economy. A good article, “Domino Effect and Interdependencies”, which suggests how interdependence and complexity may lead to such a collapse can be found here on the UK web site http://www.powerswitch.org.uk. (I have also put a copy here. )

    A further increase of 1,000,000 in the population of SEQ would make a breakdown or our electricity, transport, and overly complex water supply infrastructure practically inevitable.

  12. July 29th, 2006 at 12:27 | #12

    I’ve played Rugby on a pitch that was watered with recycled and supposably drinkable water. If you got even the smallest graze it would tend to get infected.

    It also probably had something to do with the dog fæces that are spread around with gay abandon by the overfed canines belonging to careless owners who let their pets off the leash on football ovals when they are not being used for their intended purpose.

  13. gordon
    July 29th, 2006 at 12:29 | #13

    I don’t know who Kanga is, but I would like to shake his hand. I’m a bit nervous about whether I should offer to buy him a drink.

    Prof. Quiggin says: “Their local supermarket offers chemically identical spring water…” Is it identical? I thought that bottled water contains no fluoride.

  14. July 29th, 2006 at 13:57 | #14

    I thought that bottled water contains no fluoride.

    This is in Qld sport – they don’t fluoridate in the most if not all of the deep-South.

  15. Kanga
    July 29th, 2006 at 14:01 | #15

    If Lobes is lucky enough to have a dog he could get it to lick his infected knees because dog-saliva carries a host of disease combatting qualities.
    But anyway, there are zillions of organisms carrying out their daily life on football fields (eutrophized by nitrogenous fertilisers) so they are probably inherently dangerous places. It’s all just entropy isn’t it?

    There is a theory in thermodynamics as an open system that life-forms function as energy gradient reducers. (See for instance Lyn Margulis in Aquring Genomes). I guess we are just doing our biological job. The likely thermodynamic outcome here would be to eliminate the recycling bit and just eat and drink our own s—.

    Most economists would call this efficiency. Although few would understand the thermodynamic principle they would be bound to see the potential for profit.

  16. July 29th, 2006 at 14:07 | #16

    Gordon wrote: I don’t know who Kanga is, but I would like to shake his hand.

    Haven’t you read “Winnie the Pooh” and “The House at Pooh Corner”? What makes you thing that Kanga is a he?

  17. Kanga
    July 29th, 2006 at 14:35 | #17

    Dagget writes, “Haven’t you read “Winnie the Poohâ€? and “The House at Pooh Cornerâ€?? What makes you thing that Kanga is a he?”

    Dear Dagget, you are justifyably proud of your sophisticated literary background but the name ‘Kanga’ was arbitrarily assigned to me by some forum somewhere. I am not actually the cloth animal created by AA Milne.

    Did you choose or were you assigned the name Dagget? For my part I understand that Dagget was a cartoon character based on a large North American dam-building rodent with bucked teeth and have always pictured you as a large male with these attributes.

    I am sorry but my true identity must remain forever secret. Whether this is because I am a well-known politician or rather because I am really a lighthouse keeper afflicted with a hidious deformity will never be revealed if I can help it.

    I remain your virtual correspondent.

    Kanga

  18. July 29th, 2006 at 14:45 | #18

    Kanga,

    Who’s ‘daggett’? Are you sure you’re on the forum you think you are? There is a ‘daggett’ who occasionally contributes to Online Opinion.

    Would you happen to be the same ‘kanga’ who contributes to Online Opinon from time to time?

  19. Kanga
    July 29th, 2006 at 15:01 | #19

    Dear Mr Sinnamon,

    I am sorry. You are right. I did confuse forums. I thought this was the Friends of Angry Beavers forum, where I was corresponding with someone called Daggett.

    http://members.tripod.com/~foab/

    I assure you that it is only coincidence that I share the rather common pen-name of Kanga. I have never posted to an Online Forum and I don’t know a James Sinnamon. Apparently some prankster has rerouted all Angry Beaver fans to this forum in order to cause confusion.

  20. jquiggin
    July 29th, 2006 at 15:33 | #20

    In fact, if there’s a chemical difference, it’s more likely to dubious content in the bottled water, though I think this is more tightly regulated than it used to be.

  21. Terje
    July 29th, 2006 at 16:52 | #21

    Kanga,

    No. Not at all. Although frivilous activities like a hot bath just to relax should be amoungst the uses.

    Regards,
    Terje.

  22. July 29th, 2006 at 19:06 | #22
  23. July 29th, 2006 at 19:08 | #23

    Whoops, wrong link: try here.

  24. July 29th, 2006 at 19:31 | #24

    JQ, you are running your indignation the wrong way around. Why should those who are willing to drink recycled water be able to impose their choice on the others, when the alternative is a comparatively minor increase in cost per kilolitre of increasing the supply of non-recycled water? Compared to the thousandfold increase in your proffered alternative, that is.

    In any case, this rather illustrates the intrinsic failures of democracy in certain areas. This is one such area.

  25. pre-dawn leftist
    July 29th, 2006 at 20:53 | #25

    Well, the people of Toowoomba have had their say. I used to live there and I honestly thought the vote would be slightly in favour of the recycling option, but there you go.

    There is justice in this though because now the “No” campaigners are going to have to help figure out where to get the city’s water from.

    Good luck…

  26. July 29th, 2006 at 21:23 | #26

    pre-dawn leftist,

    If there were any justice, the people of Toowoomba would not have found themselves in this situation to begin with.

    Surely they would have expected our political leaders to have figured out where the extra necessary water would have come from before thay decided to ramp up SEQ’s population by 1,000,000 in the last 15 years.

    Would it be too much now to hope for that Premier Peter Beattie might begin to question what is the whole point of crowding in ever greater numbers of people into this small corner of the globe, and as a consequence, abandon his plans to add a further 1,100,000 to SEQ’s population by 2026?

  27. Kanga
    July 29th, 2006 at 21:35 | #27

    At the risk of repeating myself, I will repeat myself and answer James’s rhetorical question which was [condensed], “[Will] … Premier Peter Beattie now … question [his]… crowding … ever greater numbers of people into this small corner of the globe, and … abandon his plans to add a further 1,100,000 to SEQ’s population by 2026?”

    Peter Beattie’s whole point is to satisfy the demands of property developers, speculators and their financiers, for more population because more population inflates the price of water, land and everything else.

    Peter Beattie is not concerned with democracy. He is a plutocrat. His job is to facilitate corporatisation.

    There are big bucks in recycling our sewerage because as long as this can be made to seem necessary, any business that takes this on will be guaranteed a living by the state.

    Mark my words, we will pay more for our recycled sewerage than we ever paid for clean fresh water.

    Such is the absurdity of invisible hand of the free market, which washes the other.

    And this is why Peter Beattie WILL continue to crowd those humans into Queensland like so many hapless sardines.

  28. July 29th, 2006 at 22:13 | #28

    Is “Toowoomba” the Aboriginal word for “Lemming”?

  29. July 29th, 2006 at 22:26 | #29

    If there were any justice, the people of Toowoomba would not have found themselves in this situation to begin with.

    Earth to James Sinnaidiot “Hellooo – H20 is a finite resource. In some places it is more finite than others. Lemmingtown was built on top of a hill in an inland area on the east coast of the world’s second driest continong. It gunna be tuff to survive”.

    A few years ago – well 1988 to be exact – a couple of paleo-climatologists published a report which stated that the rainfall in Australia over the last couple of centuries had been well above average. Anyone care to lay odds on the veracity of that conclusion?

  30. Kanga
    July 29th, 2006 at 23:28 | #30

    Hellooo to Dave,

    The problem is not that water is a finite resource, Dave, but that brains are obviously in really short supply in Toowoomba City Council. Here is the problem in a nutshell: The City has outstripped its water supply but lunatics have taken charge of the townhall and are hellbent on growing the town for reasons which only a good psychiatrist could determine.

    Toowoomba Water Futures Briefing Paper
    01.08.2005

    Taking control of Toowoomba’s future

    Toowoomba City Council (TCC) has a vision for the city that brings together the social, economic and environmental issues that our community values. Over the next decade projects such as the second range crossing, the inland rail, Charlton Wellcamp Industrial Estate, Quarry Gardens, urban expansion and the Water Futures Project will make Toowoomba a much sought after destination in terms of lifestyle and business opportunities.Toowoomba City Council (TCC) has a vision for the city that brings together the social, economic and environmental issues that our community values.

  31. pre-dawn leftist
    July 29th, 2006 at 23:38 | #31

    Kanga and James (and possibly others) – guys, you seem to credit Peter Beattie with omnipotence! Do you really think that he has that much control over how many people are moving to SE QLD? He did not just “decide” to increase the population – that is the forecast increase based on current population trend data. People have been flocking to QLD at a fair rate at least since I was a teenager in the Joh years. Population increase is inevitable everywhere – not just SE QLD. Actually the fastest growing region in Australia is Mandurah south of Perth – and guess what – its just like SE QLD!

    People are probably going to QLD because they like the climate and probably a whole lot of other things about it. Whether you like this or not, its happening and shows every sign of continuing. Are you perhaps suggesting that instead of planning for this growth Beattie should instead erect a great big fence at the NSW border and simply keep the newcomers out? Might work, but we would also need to ensure that families had no more than 2 children each. Lets see you get that idea through the current Federal Treasurer!

    Anyway, whatever the reason, its a reality and all that Beattie and his Government are trying to do is make sure that the forecast increase in population does not cause the infrastructure to fall apart – unlike Sydney which is positively creaking under the strain caused by generations of unplanned growth – I see it every day because I have to live there.

    Beattie should be congratulated for having the wisdom, courage and foresight to risk political fallout by actually planning for the long term – a very uncommon practice among Australian political leaders.

    As you said yourself James, people should not have found themselves in a position of shortage in the first place. If previous governments had done what Beattie is now doing, the shortages might have been averted. But alas no.

  32. Kanga
    July 30th, 2006 at 00:14 | #32

    Dear Pre-dawn leftist,

    Beattie et al have been advertising repeatedly for people to move to Queensland at the behest of developers. Haven’t you seen the bizarre advertisements at Brisbane airport of giant industrial cranes marching over a devastated dry grassland on their way to despoil and devour Queensland? The same ads are outside Melbourne Airport, urging us all to go to Queensland.

    The same goes for Western Australia.

    Trends are no prediction of the future; they can change at any time. What Beattie and his interstate collegues are doing is ensuring that Queenslanders and other Australians are trapped into population growth despite their sensible decisions to reduce family size or not to have any chldren at all. One of the ways they do this is to convince people that statistical trends are actually capable of predicting the future instead of just records of past growth.

    The Federal government now licences private immigration agents who team up with solicitors, realtors, property developers, speculators and universities, to name a few, with the sole purpose of making money together by attracting people to Australia as immigrants to purchase land or pay them for a chance to set up a business.

    This overseas sourced population growth and growth in investment drives up the price of land for housing and the cost of living (which ultimately depends on the cost of land everywhere) and, of course, the cost of recycled effluent (once known as water). This leads people with houses in cities like Sydney and Melbourne to capitalise on their homes by selling them and moving further out. This then raises the cost of homes and rentals in the smaller cities like WA and Brisbane and even Tasmania and pushes the poor still further out – to Culgoa and Cowes and Marysville – where large cohorts of social security recipients struggle on skyrocketing rentals.

    This is our marvellous property boom.

    In WA we are exporting as much natural gas as we can dig up and more minerals for more unsustainable development in China and elsewhere. The growth rate in Perth is over 8% per annum and they are trying to desalinate and recycle there as well.

    Mandura is a nightmare for many of its inhabitants who are in complete despair. Look for posts by Mandura’s Brian Bucktin who considers what is happening totally demented. The only people celebrating this out of control growth are mental pygmies with spinning dollar signs instead of eyeballs and a taste for drinking recycled effluent.

    No way is any of this a natural trend. It is marketed and lobbied for by organisations like APop (entirely officiated by property developers, but presenting as if it were a demographic academy of sorts), the Real Estate Institute of Australia, various national and state bodies to do with Engineering, Immigration agents, Immigration solicitors; publishers and acountants like KPMG, and the Murdoch and Fairfax Press who are the owners of huge property dot coms that market Australian real-estate all over the world http://www.realestate.com and http://www.domain.com, thanks to the total erosion of our National Foreign Investment and Mergers laws which now encourage above all other things, the building of housing estates with the aid of foreign debt.

    Face it mate. Our lovely sunburnt country is now nothing but an auction that sells citizenship to anyone who can pay and invites them to drink effluent.

    Mr Beattie is in on this along with Mr Bracks and the other Premiers and our little Prime Minister.

    It is the job of the leftists, pre and apres dawn to spot and fight this kind of corporate takeover of democracy. What do you mean by defending it you well-meaning idiot?

  33. brian
    July 30th, 2006 at 00:42 | #33

    The ABC is reporting that with 50% of the vote counted,there is a 2 to ! margin for NO over YES…the NO vote is about 64% !

  34. July 30th, 2006 at 01:20 | #34

    pre dawn leftist wrote : Do you really think that he has that much control over how many people are moving to SE QLD? He did not just “decide� to increase the population.

    Actually, Peter Beattie’s government has done its level best to encourage population growth and has publicly basked in the glory of this supposed ‘achievement’ on every possible occasion. As an example, see my transcription of the taxpayer funded full page advertisement (cross-posted from here) placed in Brisbane’s Courier Mail on 8 December 2005 to celebrate the anticipated birth of the 4,000,000th Queenslander :

    Four million Queenslanders

    Today: 3,999,865
    Tomorrow: 4,000,000

    (Row of photos including baby’s face, farmer, blue collar worker workers, attractive female scientist with eyes focussed on test tube, etc)
    Queensland’s population will reach four million people tomorrow, Friday 9 December.
    If you are visting or thinking about a move to Queensland, you will already know we are the nation’s engine room, Our population growth is only rivalled by our economic and employment growth. We now account for 19.5% of Australia’s population.
    Tomorrow’s mile stone and our economic success reflect that Queensland is the place to invest, work, live, work and play.


    To all Queenslanders, I urge you to warmly welcome our new arrivals.
    Peter Beattie MP
    Premier and Treasurer

    Other examples of the Beattie Government’s active encouragement of interstate and international migration to Queensland can be found on these web sites, http://www.qld.gov.au/moving_to_queensland/index.html, http://www.investqueensland.com.au as well as the huge billboards of hideous walking construction cranes referred to above by Kanga, which have been erected outside Australia’s airports (look at flash animation on http://www.investqueensland.com.au if you haven’t seen them already).

    Then, when the consequences of his own irresponsibility catches up with him, such as when he has to explain himself to the farmers of the Mary Valley whom he would now have pay the price of population growth by having their farms flooded, he changes his tune, and tries to plead his powerlessness to stop interstate migration, either treating his audience as fools, or hoping they may not have been listening when he was talking out of the other sided of his mouth. An example was when he was interviewed by Peter Mares of ABC Radio National’s “The National Interest” on 11 June. He was asked about whether he was the victim of his own success and his response that there was nothing he could do.

    If Peter Beattie truly wanted to begin discouraging population growth, then I would have thought that he could at least publicly enunciate a Government policy of achievement of population stability and acknowledge to us how wrong his previous polices were. Of course that, in and of itself, is not guaranteed to stop interstate migration, which is itself driven by overseas migration, but at least if he started to show some leadership in this regard, we could, at this late stage, start the process of turning this situation around.

  35. July 30th, 2006 at 02:16 | #35

    At the Western Treatment Plant in Werribee Melbourne recycled effluent is used in market gardens and in industry but definitely not for direct human consumption. The main concern is the presence of heavy metals and such things as hormones. Given its conservation and economic characteristics the WTP is a fantastic facility.

    I haven’t been following the Toowoomba case. I suppose there was no thought of a market solution or maybe it is infeasible. Provide the treated effluent at low cost and allow for other supplies at higher cost. If people are not provided with relative cost information they will certainly prefer drinking from a pristine mountain stream to drinking recycled effluent.

    I would.

  36. Terje (say TAY-A)
    July 30th, 2006 at 09:33 | #36

    The main concern is the presence of heavy metals and such things as hormones.

    Does anybody have a handle on the science of these issues. I would have thought that if you ever detected the presence of these in the output of the recycling plant then you would simply divert the output away from your water supply.

    Given the quality of water coming out of a tertiary treatment sewerage plant it seems a pity to just flush it out to sea.

    The problem is not that water is a finite resource, Dave, but that brains are obviously in really short supply in Toowoomba City Council. Here is the problem in a nutshell: The City has outstripped its water supply but lunatics have taken charge of the townhall and are hellbent on growing the town for reasons which only a good psychiatrist could determine.

    Interesting isn’t it that the town which voted against recycled water was also the town that voted for the lunatics that want to the town to grow. Democratic schizophrenia perhaps.

  37. pre-dawn leftist
    July 30th, 2006 at 09:42 | #37

    Kanga,

    No need to be insulting – I just dont cast myself as King Canute trying to hold back the tide. How is that fence going?

    The reality is that population is increasing everywhere – Beattie would be irresponsible not to plan for this eventuality. The issue of whether an endlessly increasing human population is sustainable anyway is a separate argument entirely and something that will eltimately be solved by the ecology of the planet (and I think we all know the answer to that).

  38. Terje (say TAY-A)
    July 30th, 2006 at 10:01 | #38

    Maybe Sydney can solve its water problems by getting more of its citizens to immigrate to Queensland.

  39. gordon
    July 30th, 2006 at 10:51 | #39

    Kanga says: “Mandura is a nightmare for many of its inhabitants who are in complete despair.” As a connoisseur of despair I Yahoo’d Mandura (never heard of it before). It turns out to be in WA. The first item on the Yahoo list was a videoclip from a developer advertising land in Mandura. There was also a list of the top 25 locations for “seachange success” (as listed by the magazine “My Business”) – Mandura was 2nd in 2004 and 1st in 2005. If Kanga is right, seachange success is in the eye of the beholder.

  40. gordon
    July 30th, 2006 at 10:57 | #40

    And according to this item in Yahoo news, Beattie is moving smoothly to trump the Toowoomba “NO” vote by simply swamping it with a new referendum which will include all SE Queensland.

  41. observa
    July 30th, 2006 at 12:26 | #41

    I think we do have to be careful that because Peter Beattie is flogging his state he’s responsible for all the bums in tuscan boxes. At the same time therefore because of nonsense. There was a report this week that the states should stop spending (around a billion$ I think?) on tourist advertising which just competed among themselves and rather should be spending it on their hospitals. Still once everyone starts taking a box to the footy to stand on, it’s hard to get them to see sense, especially the short Cinderallas. Coming from the driest Cinderella state in the driest continent, it’s bemusing to listen to those that have largely drowned in abundant clean water, running around like chicken littles. Welcome to Adelaide drinking water, turkeys!

    As for the vote in Toowoomba, whilst it’s true there might be the yuk factor for a few that could be easily overcome by education and a glass of the stuff as we’ve seen the mayoress, etc drinking on our news spots. No the real hard core opposition would come from the doubts about heavy metals and in particular long term doubts about hormones in the water. Quoting safe international levels of parts per million to worried parents and grandparents, is about as effective as quoting safe rem radiation levels to women working in certain ABC buildings. We have all been round long enough to know that what was seen as reasonable activity 2 or 3 decades ago, no longer is. In this respect it is probably unnecessary to try and make grey water pure again in sophisticated and energy wasteful ways, when such an infinitesimal part of that is for human consumption. SA already understands that and is already investing in dual delivery systems in new suburbs.

  42. Terje (say TAY-A)
    July 30th, 2006 at 12:58 | #42

    As for the vote in Toowoomba, whilst it’s true there might be the yuk factor for a few that could be easily overcome by education and a glass of the stuff as we’ve seen the mayoress, etc drinking on our news spots.

    I remember seeing footage of a farmer eating DDT. It didn’t seem to convince many people.

  43. July 30th, 2006 at 13:43 | #43

    “The main concern is the presence of heavy metals and such things as hormones. Given its conservation and economic characteristics the WTP is a fantastic facility.’

    I am not sure what people think they are drinking now. The water from sewage including heavy metals and hormones makes its way into the water table and then to the water catchment where it is pumped out and drunk. Also there is no information as to what illegal dumping occurs in the water catchment.

    At least with recycled water the filtration can be controlled and the output completely tested.

    The other question is that if Toowoomba’s water runs out do the inhabitants then get no water? Or do they take someone elses water?

  44. July 30th, 2006 at 14:22 | #44

    pre-dawn leftist, you wrote (to Kanga):

    I just dont cast myself as King Canute trying to hold back the tide. How is that fence going?

    Let’s not confuse two issues.

    Let’s first establish whether or not population growth is beneficial, and then, if we decide that it is not, then let’s then consider how we can go about stopping it.

    In regard to the first issue read what the Real Estate Institute of Queensland, themselves, amongst the most energetic promoters of population growth, predict will be our future as a consequence.

    (Much of the following has been cross-posted from the “Against the Doomsayers” thread).

    In an article entitled “Owning a Slice of the Action” on Friday 23 June, Courier Mail journalist Patrick Lion revealed the thinking of real estate agents and others who derive their living from property speculation.

    … we will be living on smaller blocks as more people move to the southeast corner. …
    The current water crisis will mean natures’s drop will be rare, ensuring most houses will have minimal lawns and garden. …
    A session in entertainment rooms will replace the smell of fresh air and a potter around in the vegie patch. Besides most workers won’t be bothered about gardening at the end of a long day at the office.

    Of course, the ‘long day at the office’ will be made even more necessary by the rise in the average price Brisbane homes which the REIQ anticipates will increase from $365,000 (which I would have thought would have been already unthinkable) to $800,000 over the next 10 years (an average increase of 8% PA).

    In order to ‘help’ mortgagees meet such hitherto inconceivable levels of debt “lending institutions are expected to introduce products such as a 40-year mortgages to allow buyers to finance that level of borrowing (and now, I heard just now on ABC natinal news, 50 year loans!).”

    On the same double page spread of the Courier Mail, in another article “Why Investing in Real Estate is so special”, Noel Whittaker writes:

    What are the factors of that makes house values rise? Firstly, the supply of land is not elastic – when all the land on a river bank is built on, there is no more vacant land left there.

    However, the growth lobby works its hardest to make the demand side as ‘elastic’ as possible, and only upwardly, by remorselessly encouraging population growth, principally through immigration.

    Further along he writes:

    An obvious but often overlooked quality of about real estate is that … you can live in it and avoid paying rent. If you already have a place of your own, you can rent your second home out and it will produce income as well as capital gain.

    And two paragraphs later he writes:

    The next big benefit of owning your own home is that you control it which provides security for you and your family. You become free of the worry of a landlord returning from overseas and wanting to move back into his own house or being evicted because the owner suddenly decides to sell the house to raise money. You have control of your own future.

    So, straight from the pen of a property speculator himself, we learn that the real estate so-called ‘industry’ has nothing to with creating wealth or improving our society. Rather, it is a scam to facilitate the transfer of wealth out of the pockets of those, unfortunate enough not to have been able to buy homes at times when they were more affordable, into the pockets of those who have.

    Why such a situation, in which ever growing numbers of the population no longer have secure and affordable housing, should be acceptable, is not discussed by Whittaker.

    The crisis in the supply of rental accommodation was reported in an article (link no longer working) in the Sunday Mail of 7 May:

    WE ARE in the grip of a rental accommodation crisis, …

    Accommodation groups describe the rental market as a “lottery” where working families are living in substandard accommodation, including stables, while they wait for a vacancy.

    Desperate families are being forced to lease properties with defects, including leaking toilets and filthy carpets.

    Before moving to NSW two years ago,
    (Brett McQuinn’s) family rented a three-bedroom house at Helensvale for $220 a week. It’s now $350 a week.

    The cheapest accommodation he could find was $220 for a Nerang duplex. “We didn’t even look at houses – that’s not an option. There’re hundreds of people chasing after a few dozen properties,” he said.

    Queensland Shelter director Adrian Pisarski said a Mackay miner on $120,000 was forced to move his family into stables.

    Mr Pisarski blamed the crisis on the market being unable to cope with more than 1000 people moving to the state weekly. Many “rented down” while saving
    for a house deposit.

    “It squeezes out the low-income earners,” he said.

    Gold Coast emergency housing workers said many families would not be able to absorb another rent rise.

    “The rents are going through the roof. To access rental accommodation will be virtually impossible for people on certain incomes,” Gold Coast Housing Network chairwoman Tracey Douglas said.

    “It’s become a lottery. The landlords will pick and choose. It will become discriminatory.”

    In my own rapidly gentrifying area of Brisbane, I have borne unfortunate witness to the effects of many months of housing insecurity and disruption to the life of a neighbour as real estate agents showed a succession of prospective buyers through her flat. After a buyer was found, the rent was increase to a level she could not afford to pay and was forced to move out of the area. The last time I saw her, awaiting the final inspection from the real estate agent, she was in tears and found it necessary to cry on my shoulders. Whilst I understand that there are honourable exceptions, my opinion of real estate agents has plummeted even further as a consequence.

    So the ‘progress’ we have all been promised by advocates of population growth includes :

    1. shortages and consequent increase of the cost of water a basic necessity, and the necessity of costly, complex, environmentally costly and socially destructive ‘solutions’ over which question marks still hang in regards to consequences for our health. These ‘solutions’ include: more dams, desalination and recycling, which has just been rejected by the residents of Toowoomba.
    2. Further loss of housing affordability.
    3. Ever more crowded housing conditions, lacking even gardens, which were once considered essential for a decent standard of living.
    4. Longer working hours in order to pay the increased housing costs.
    5. Increased traffic congestion requiring phenomenally expensive ‘solutions’ such as the proposed $2 billion, and rising, North South Bypass Tunnel and the Hale Street Bridge.
    6. The inability of our education and health systems to cope with the ever greater demand.
    7. destruction of eco-systems and consequent extinctions of other species.
    6. etc, etc.

    Those who promote population growth, when their arguments start to look untenable change their tack and seek to avoid discussion by simply treating the whole question as inevitable and unavoidable. I have read countless times phrases such as “South East Queensland’s population will continue.

    Well, in fact, as long as their remains any substance to our democratic system, we do have a choice. We can certainly start by actively discouraging, rather than encouraging interstate migration as the Beattie Government is now continuing to do, for a start. After that we must question of immigration, which promoters of population growth have succeeded in turning into a taboo subject over recent decades.

    It is all to easy for supporters of immigration to paint themselves as warm welcoming and compassionate people as Beattie has largely succeeded in doing, but closer scrutiny reveals that they, in fact, have no compassion for many of those who already live here or for our environment and little more for those others they seek to import in order to exploit.

  45. July 30th, 2006 at 14:24 | #45

    Ender, Melbourne’s water supply comes direct from a rainfed catchment – there are stricy controls on human activities in the catchment. I think it is some of the highest quality water around,

  46. July 30th, 2006 at 15:32 | #46

    harry clarke – I am sure that it is however the water that came down as rain used to be sewage once. Also the catchment I am sure includes runoff from ground water in the form of springs etc. Finally this will all work forever only if the climate does not change and the population of Melbourne stops growing.

  47. Seeker
    July 30th, 2006 at 17:52 | #47

    As to the science of recycled drinking water, there is no doubt that properly processed waste water can be cleaned to an almost abitrarily high purity, and certainly far higher than anything you would buy in a bottle or get from the average tap.

    The choice of purity standard is decided by a combination of user requirements, available technology, and economic cost.

    Personally, I don’t see why the good people of Toowoomba (one of whom is a close relative of mine) can’t turn to rainwater tanks and conservation. My relative, who spent almost all her life on remote cattle stations, installed a large rainwater tank in her house when she first moved to Toowoomba years ago. She is not having any basic water supply problems, and voted no to the proposal.

    I, too, am very skeptical of high tech soutions to this ongoing problem. (Including high energy using desalination plants.)

    And I agree with Terje that it is criminal that governments deemed domestic urban rainwater tanks illegal, until recent times. Utter madness.

  48. July 30th, 2006 at 18:42 | #48

    Seeker ,you are wiser than your dear Toowoomba relative. If the federal government wants to fork out the money for a treatment plant for sewage, you do not say “No”. Where we are, water restrictions are about to be introduced that will mean no hose watering. Maybe they need to suffer a little bucket therapy to regret their crazy decision.
    The amount of water we actually drink is tiny to what we use. A small investment in a water tank/filter and prob solved, if it was one.

  49. July 31st, 2006 at 10:27 | #49

    Ender, Melbourne’s water supply comes direct from a rainfed catchment – there are stricy controls on human activities in the catchment. I think it is some of the highest quality water around…

    Something that hasn’t been mentioned here… Clearfelling. Logging in Victoria’s catchments is threatening the quality of our drinking water, and even if new planting is done (which in no way replaces the pre-existing ecosystem in quality) the new trees need lots and lots of water to grow. So, this exacerbates the water problem.

  50. July 31st, 2006 at 10:49 | #50

    It’s unfortunate to see the anti population growth arguments tacked on here, when Quiggin (and many others) are making the point that with the application of just a small amount of logic technological solutions can be found.

    Most of our water use doesn’t require perfect water anyway, and as someone who feels a certain amount of ‘yuck’ factor at drinking this water, I’d have no problems with getting an additional water filter for that purpose.

    In a nation prone to population growth anxiety this area is one of the few left where the states can compete. If queenslanders want their recent growth thwarted, as a simpler solution than exploring cutting edge recycling technologies or losing their lawns, then that’s their right.

    However the constant babble about queensland being the up and coming state will soon subside. In a country as small as ours both economic and political strength will flow to states that find ways to accomodate bigger populations, as they have flown to NSW.

    In Vic we are growing rapidly, and we have significant water restrictions. But y’know what, there’s a penalty system for overuse and even though I admit still having some pretty (what I would think of as) indulgent bathroom habits we don’t come within a cooee of the average per capita use. There is still some serious indulgence out there, like our next door neighbours who leave rivers of water running down the road when they wash their cars.

  51. Terje (say TAY-A)
    July 31st, 2006 at 11:02 | #51

    But y’know what, there’s a penalty system for overuse and even though I admit still having some pretty (what I would think of as) indulgent bathroom habits we don’t come within a cooee of the average per capita use.

    Do you have a heard of small children that need fresh clothes each day. Add more washing if you use cloth nappies. Add some more again if you wish to bath them.

    The notion of setting water limits on a household basis is silly. It makes no account of the variations in need. A far better way would be to treat every drop as precious and price accordingly.

  52. observa
    July 31st, 2006 at 11:19 | #52

    Hmmm, more State Premier bragging by the sounds of it
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,10117,19960611-1246,00.html?from=public_rss

  53. July 31st, 2006 at 12:28 | #53

    “It makes no account of the variations in need. A far better way would be to treat every drop as precious and price accordingly. ”

    But it does, I’ve used the term penalty system but all it means is you go onto a higher price after a certain amount of usage. And what I’m saying is that level appears to be very high, so while I can’t of course (gimme about 8 months) prove it I suspect that it would require more than some extra washing and the odd bath to get there.

    By a blanket higher pricing you are still going to get higher prices. If your point suggests a particular response it is actually a per capita concession.

  54. pre-dawn leftist
    July 31st, 2006 at 14:45 | #54

    Armaniac,

    I dont know where you’re getting your information from, but Queenslands growth rate is higher than Victorias and well above NSW – its the highest in the country according to the Australian Buraeu of Statistics:

    http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0e5fa1cc95cd093c4a2568110007852b/6949409dc8b8fb92ca256bc60001b3d1!OpenDocument

  55. Kanga
    August 1st, 2006 at 00:04 | #55

    Gordon, http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2006/07/28/vote-yes-in-toowoomba/#comment-62758,

    regarding your comments about how Mandura is being advertised as a great place to retire/seachange etc by developers.

    The problem, as I am sure you know, is that developers ruin the best of towns. Newcomers to towns don’t realise what is being lost and have no solidarity with the incumbents. This makes it really easy to manipulate the townsfolk, because they can easily be overwhelmed by the new folk who have no reliable sources of information.

    Town councils become captured by realtors, developers, bankers, and the whole town becomes subverted to the business of land-transactions. Agriculture goes out the window. Water, once used for stock and recreation, becomes a tradeable commodity whose scarcity engenders helplessness and guilt in those who have no control over the situation and the rubbing of hands in those who control the situation and hve invested in the changes.

  56. August 1st, 2006 at 11:52 | #56

    Armaniac wrote: It’s unfortunate to see the anti population growth arguments tacked on here.

    Need I point out that you are ‘tacking on’ pro population growth arguments here yourself.

    As has been explained by myself and Kanga, past population growth, has largely brought about the current water shortage problem for which solutions need to be found, so it is very relevent to this discussion.

    What is also relevant is the plan to add another 1,100,000 to the population of SEQ by 2026. I think most current residents of SEQ could well do without the kind of “economic and political strength” that would come from cramming us into concrete shoe-boxes without access to a garden or the necessary water to look after it and having to pay off mortgages on $800,000 homes over a 40 to 50 year loan period.

  57. August 19th, 2006 at 14:59 | #57

    This was written in the Courier Mail’s “Blogger’s View” section of 17 August.
    Peter Stewart:

    The argument that we all drink recycled water and have done so since man walked on the earth is fallacious. Whatever water is discharged into the oceans where it is massively diluted and biologically rendered down by micro-organisms. Then it is evaporated, condensed into clouds, and reappears as rain. That process is mostly aligned to distillation desalination. The proposed schemes for southeast Queensland are based on filtration and, perhaps flocculation, and are definitely not equivalent in terms of the failure path of the process. That is why an intermediate buffer process is essential for buffer failure. In England in 1988, 20,000 people were poisoned due to a water treatment failure.

    (Can’t locate it online, sorry. It wasn’t here.)

  58. John C
    August 20th, 2006 at 14:17 | #58

    The problem with the recycled sewage plant proposed for Toowoomba is that it just would not work.

    It is not possible to produce 11,000 ML of recycled water from 8,000 ML of sewage. Toowoomba City Council also had nowhere for the RO waste stream to go. Acland Coal did not want it. Singapore pumps its RO waste stream into the sea.

    The plant could never have been built for $68 million – closer to $150-200 million would be more accurate when you take into account the hundreds of acres of evaporation ponds required which were not included in the budget.

    Regardless of your view on recycled water use, the No vote in Toowoomba was correct because the proposal was a dud.

  59. August 20th, 2006 at 22:21 | #59

    Thanks John C, for adding further weight to the arguments put by both Kanga and myself.

    One obvious point that seems to have been missed both here and by parties ostensibly in favour of sustainability such as the Greens and the Democrats, is that we shouldn’t be flushing water down the toilet in the first place. We should be encouraging the use of composting toilets. Our failure to properly recycle human waste back into the soil is one factor which has not only helped to exacerbate our water crisis, but has led to the depletion of nutrients from our soils over the last 200 years.

    If we are to develop an agricultural system that is sustainable in the long term (BTW, I recommend that people in Brisbane attend the talk by David Holmgren and Richard Heinberg as advertised by the Northey Street City Farm this coming Wednesday), then we need to re-establish the chemical loop which has been broken.

    Peak Oil and Permaculture – Local Solutions to Oil Decline

    DATE : Wednesday, 23 August 2006
    TIME : Doors open 6.00 pm
    VENUE : BTTA Centre
    LOCATION : 86 Green Terrace, Windsor
    COST: $20
    BOOKINGS: here (M$ Word document)

  60. October 28th, 2006 at 21:58 | #60

    You know one of the leaders of the ‘know nothing scare campaign’ in Toowoomba, Snow Manners, has been elected to Toowoomba City Council with a huge majority being 30% of the vote in a 16 candidate field with his nearest rival securing about 13% of the vote.

    A prominent opponent of potable reuse is now in public office. The prominent proponent of sewage water left standing in third place.

    Makes you think doesn’t it?

    Perhaps the support for sewage water is media contrived by IBM CH2M Hill Malcolm Turnbull, Leith Boully and other propagandists and vested interests.

    Perhaps

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