Monday Message Board

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

48 thoughts on “Monday Message Board


    Talk about Labour not messing up for the election, this is A grade trash talk. ATARs for subjects differ mostly because of demand for the course instead of the it being the university’s “standard”. This reason alone is why ANU’s ATAR is generally lower than UNSW, USYD or even UTS and Macquarie.

    The main reason why University is letting lower ATARs into teaching is because teachers aren’t well paid nor are they well respected in Australia, so more high ATARs choose STEM and business over teaching. Many in the general public bashes public servants when they ask for pay rises or organise industrial actions, yet most of these people would also want highest quality public service. It is this logical dissonance of the general public that politicians have to manage, and this cannot be done by simply asking university to not allow lower ATARs into teaching. Tanya Plibersek is essentially asking for teacher shortage future.

  2. @Tom

    Minimum ATARs don’t say anything about average ATARs which is the measure you should be looking at (if you accept the premise that ATARs are a good predictor of how whether a cohort of student teachers are going to be good teachers). And on top of that as you say teaching as a profession is unattractive for many reasons.

    Plibersek is no dope and you can be sure she understands this perfectly well. This is just a way of being seen to care about teacher quality (undoubtedly something that comes up in focus groups) without doing anything about it.

  3. @Smith 9

    I don’t believe ATAR is a good predictor of who is going to be a good teacher. In fact, even if you are the best performer in your course in university, you can still be a bad teacher who reads a PowerPoint presentation word by word with a flat tone.

    Why I believe this comment by Plibersek is stupid, is because if it is suppose to score political points by being seen to care but not actually doing anything about it, it still have to be relatively convincing and not sound stupid. If you look at the Guardian comment section of that article, you’ll see that even the average Labour voter (most of Guardian readers are) sees this as stupid comment on improving teacher quality.

  4. I’ll second that Tom . Maybe just Labor small target strategy ,scared of Reinhardts IPA and Murdoch machine. Teacher trainers should be able to pick the good ones ,ATAR may not measure all relevant useful skills for teaching. Useful traits may not be as easily measurable as ATAR ones .I did HSC when all on one exam and we were classed A, B,C, etc from yr 7, I suppose ATAR is better than that at least. Teachers work pretty hard from what I can tell.

  5. 3 of my sons year 12 friends group enrolled at a Uni in Canada for various degrees in Teaching. They share an apartment near campus, and all work part time to help support the study. I met up with one of them, along with my son at Christmas. His choice was almost entirely about dissatisfaction with down south Uni’s, all these guys are NT born and Darwin educated. All of them had Ok to very good ATAR scores. They like the idea of almost instantly being able to have access to teaching options across a range of commonwealth countries, post degree completion obviously. Both my sons, as much as they love the NT and Australia, have their eyes wide open to living and working options overseas. Their friends group from school and work share similar views.


    Just as I blasted Labour’s Plibersek dumb comment yesterday, Terri Butler’s comment today is A grade material. Backed by logic, data and even comment from the Small Business Council of Australia, comments and policies like these are what Labour needs to win elections. It even made LNP look obvious that they are focused on punishing the disadvantaged rather than helping businesses (of course, we all know that).

  7. According to many reports the US government is partially in shutdown because Mr Trump is refused the money to build a wall on the Mexican border, as he had promised during his election campaign.

    I recall Mr Trump had promised to build a wall on the said border and he will make Mexico pay for it (therefore no need to have US government funds, therefore no need to partially shutdown the government and therefore no need to negotiate with the Democrats).

    Where am I wrong?

  8. The length of border wall built during this presidency is shorter than Trump’s little finger.

    The statistics so far;

    Length of US-Mexico Border = 1,954 miles.
    Pre-existing barriers = 654 miles
    Trump’s proposed wall = 1,000 miles.
    Trump Walls built * = 0 miles.

    * Excludes short prototype sections built off-border by prospective contractors, presumably at their own expense.

  9. Ernestine makes a good point. If Trump was a clever politician – good luck there – he would just close the Mexican border UNTIL the US congress gave him funding for his border wall/fence/ partition. Then Mexico would have paid a price for the wall. Mexico needs trade with the USA more than the USA needs trade with Mexico. Also it would hurt the very countries who are kicking out their citizens by their disastrous economic mismanagement. Still you cannot hope for such rhythmic logic from the current President of the USA.

  10. The American Constitution and political system are structurally dysfunctional. The evidence is that one man (the President elected by an undemocratic Electoral College) can shut down the government, against the wishes of Congress. Certainly, the shut down is against the wishes of the people.

    The USA was not created to be a democracy. It was created to be a patrician republic. That is to say, the rich and patrician oligarchs (patriarchs) and their families were intended to wield the real power through a compliant Congress and Senate and via control of the President or at least control of the Presidential Office. This intent runs right through the Constitution.

    These grave failings of the American system are now playing out. The continued power of the patrician class in America partially explains (from the political end) the continued dominance of extreme (now neoliberal) capitalism in America.

  11. The Menindee fish kill, the findings by the SA Royal Commission into the MDB (due Feb 1) and the upcoming elections, both NSW and federal, could provide for a perfect storm for the LNP. In particular the ex Minister for Water Resources and now special envoy for the drought, Barnaby Joyce.

  12. Bitcoin is up 25% in price since its low of a few weeks ago. It looks like Bitcoin wasn’t dead. It was just resting.

  13. The Menindee fish kills (2), the death of half the Barrier Reef since 2016, the 2016 mangrove die-off in the Gulf of Carpentaria (7,000ha of dead mangroves over 700km of coastline)… These are recent examples, just in Australia, of the damage that climate change and other presses and pulses (as they are called) are wreaking on our environment. These and other events like the massive and new wildfire patterns in many parts of the world, taken together, indicate the beginnings of a runaway collapse of our climate and ecosystems which in turn support our economies and human life. It is not the individual events but the pattern of increasing frequency and severity of multiple events which sounds the alarm.

    Those who believe that weak and slow market led adjustments will be sufficient to adjust to these problems and save the world ecosystems and ourselves are already in denial of the extant evidence. The market has failed to react in time. The runaway collapse has started. Again, those who deny it simply can’t read the early yet incontrovertible signs.

  14. The Menindee issue deserves careful analysis. The lakes it seems were not replenished partly because of the drought. Water was released from the lakes partly to meet environmental objectives downstream. In fact “no flows” for any length of time in the Darling seem to be rather rare events so it is difficult to know what is going on. Maybe it was a policy mistake or a policy action based on reasonable thinking and expectations which just failed. I’d really like to know the facts here. Of course the consequences have been tragic, indeed sickening.

  15. Data from BOM reveals that over 2017 and 2018 low rainfall records were broken within large parts of the MDB. BOM data also record record breaking temps within the same catchment. Combining high evaporation with low rainfall makes for conditions that are beyond the “norm”.

    Add the flagrant suppression of expert opinion by elected lawmakers (as detailed in the RC) and you have a dire situation that had been forecast by experts.

    We may have to treat irrigators like the car industry, not worth the subsidised pain.

  16. The question, Rog, is the extent to which extreme climatic circumstances have been aggravated by irrigator demands and by downstream demands for environmental water. Not obvious to me what is going on.

  17. There were reports about water stealing a while back. Overall, we can probably say it’s a sum of everything;

    Water theft plus legal withdrawals too high plus too many dams plus leaking infrastructure plus temperatures higher plus precipitation lower equals dead river. Along with sea level rise, Australians will be fleeing the coast and fleeing the advancing interior arid hot zone. It’s time to introduce zero net immigration. We can still take refugees and some immigrants and balance them by natural emigration. But our net immigration needs to be zero very soon.

  18. I just saw the video of dead 80 – 100 yr old Murray cod. The farming lobby is disproportionately powerful in Australia. The vast majority of our land is poor or very poor quality for modern farming but we manage to produce twice what we need due to the big scale and our small population . In their book ‘Game of Mates’ Murray and Frijters claim that 70% of farming households are in the top 20% of our countries wealthiest. The Guardian had a piece saying that 80% of the worlds farming land is for meat and dairy production ,and that they only provide about 1/3 of the worlds protein and 18 % of its calories, and that the world could easily be fed from the 20 % used for human consumption crops. Lets make that 80 % into nature reserves !

  19. I once opined to a work colleague that poor farmers who were National party supporters were foolish and I wondered why they gave such support.

    She said, “Perhaps they are dreaming of the day when their farm will do well enough to attract subsidies.”

  20. The American Constitution and political system are structurally dysfunctional.

    The US Constitution has significant faults (every constitution has significant faults). I think it’s worth pointing out that one of the faults which is important to bringing about the current deadlock is the separation of powers. Admirers of the US Constitution often point to this as one of its main glories; but it isn’t, it’s a folly, as the current deadlock illustrates. The deadlock is about budgeting. Is budgeting a legislative or an executive function? It’s both; indeed, it is both the most important legislative function and the most important executive function. Trying to segregate legislative and executive functions is foolish, because it’s utterly impossible. The deadlock currently afflicting the US would not be likely to trouble any of those countries whose constitutions sensibly link the legislature and the executive. They have their own problems, of course.

  21. Fish kill. What is the word for this. Not decemation. So LAST WEEK. Anihilation? Genocide?

    Take a history tour of Minindee (Lakes): read:  Dam. “Minindee Ephemeral lakes – short-lived lakes and ponds”. Calling them lakes in the first place was a mistake. 7m depth at original flood height. An insult to real lakes. 

    What Minindee LAKES looked like;

    Oh. Dam Minindee…

    Menindee Lake Flood – N.S.W. (1962) British Pathé
    Note narrator saying ” never again would they face a water shortage in a dry desolate part of the continent”. I’d rofl if this were not so serious 

    Australian water “has been one of consistent failure” – in Minindee Lakes case 75 years. And counting…

    Family friends and I have swum in Burrendong and Windamere Dams. And the cudgeegong river. My parents used to live in Mudgee. Burrendong has had low inflows and usually recharges Minindee (read: cotton) so Windamere has to flow to burrendong on on to Minindee. Reports of Mudgee town meetings show half of required discharge waiting until july for full transfer if no appreciable rain in burrendong. See:

    “Professor Kingsford said the Menindee Lakes had been drained more often than in the past – including twice in the past four years – making such diasters more likely: “It’s a classic example of nature biting back”.

    Cudgeegong river flows to burrendong and the river is running so fast I’d expect any platypus will be washed downstream or access hole in bank flooded – ie drowned.

    In this publication** (see below) Prof Q, (how best to refer to you please) did you get data on percentages from the mda? ‘High reliability’ water has 95% is assumed to be delivered. In a ‘dry year’ only 75%. As the lakes are now drawing water from Windamere Dam near Mudgee nsw, dropping storage there from 47 to 30 and probably july to17% guaranteeing blue green algae outbreaks later this / next / most summers, to put some water back down cudgeegong and gwyder rivers to feed Burrandong Dam (which is near empty), then down Barton, darling, into Minindee, and on to parched cotton farms – thence atmosphere, aqua and round again. 

    What happens next summer if no appreciable inflows into either dam?

    It would seem like we are robbing central west to pay for cotton. Is this correct? Do ANY of the profits stay in oz? Finance via double dutch Irish or ‘loans’ at inflated percentages? 

    **Property Rights and Water Buy Back in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin
    Schools of Economics and Political Science
    David Adamson, Max Oss-Emer and John Quiggin

    And judging by this map the cudgeegong gwydir barwon darling murray are not rivers but infrastructure and drains to support agribiz.

    ++””Here’s a a table from an article I published in the Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics a couple of years ago.

    Table 1: Water required for $1 000 gross profit
    Commodity Water use, in Ml
    Fruit 2.0
    Vegetables 4.6
    Dairy products 5.0
    Cotton 7.6
    Rice 18.5
    Pasture 27.8
    Source: adapted from Hall, Poulter and Curtotti (1994)   …  “”

    …the number in the table implies 18,000 litres for a dollar of profit in rice (ed. 7,600 litres for a dollar profit in cotton?). Assuming gross profit is around half the value of total output, the number quoted also looks pretty accurate.””  And see comments. ++

    Q: Are local pasture growers using more water than cotton?

    Q: why do we publish blue green algae alerts??? Because it kills. Where is the science and medical and stats please.

    Q: why is a rapid release which has caused human deaths in recent memory not outlawed – 1994 discharge was large and fast flowing led to 3 kids drowning???

    The nitrogen and phosphorous load took ten years for the benthos ( lake bottom goop) in windamere to accumulate enough to generate alagal blooms. Sewer treatment plant at Rylestone still being upgraded to stop chemical load discharged into cudgeegong. And therefore 1-2 decades after all point source pollution ceased for algal blooms to cease. Two properties in catchment show outlier discharges – probably rained the day after fertilized. NSW State Library ref. Nq333.91621/10. Nutrient source management upper cudgeegong river. Dept Heritage and Planning 1992

    May I humbly suggest JQ your sustainability and risk group update all these 1994 analyses above. I would offer assistance if needed as a researcher. This is important and will effect Australia more than interest rates in the near future. Not medium or long term. Now.

    My father won the contract in 1984? to install high pressure multistage pumps in the dam wall of windamere supposedly to secure Mudgee’s water supply. Ha! The contract for the pipes from windamere to mudgee was never let. So the $180k of pumps have never sent a drop to mudgee. Anď still lie in situ. Doing nothing.

  22. I think it’s very clear that cotton growing in Australia and rice growing in the Riverina need to cease. We don’t have enough water for such crops.

  23. I don’t think it is clear. One thing about rice is that it can be grown only when water supply conditions are favourable. A flexible crop.

  24. Harry Clarke is correct. The important thing is how much, and when, water is extracted from rivers for irrigation, not what the water is used for. Cotton and rice phobia is one of many unfortunate shibboleths in the water policy ‘debate’. Perhaps the worst is confusion over the meaning of water use efficiency and water saving, leading to gross economic waste with unwarranted public expenditure on off-farm and on-farm irrigation infrastructure that should be the financial responsibility of irrigators.

  25. Paraphrasing from a recent Twitter post: 1kg of cotton requires 20,000 litres of water which produces $669 value per megalitre, compared to $8409 for beef.

    And I think this unique Twitter thread about Cubby Station’s history exemplifies Australia’s adolescent (to me) environmental overreach –

  26. hc and Alistair Watson,

    If people make high capital investments in growing cotton and rice (both water-intensive and capital-intensive crops under Australian climatic and economic conditions) then they are not going to want annual crop cycles to be an on-again / off-again proposition according to rainfall and water availability. They are going to want to harvest annual crops to pay off the capital investment. In turn, this then leads to the lobbying pressure for big dams and annual water allocations no matter what the rains and rivers are like.

    A site I found suggested cotton is by far the most water-intensive of any broad-acre crop grown on the face of the earth.

    Cotton: About 22,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of cotton.
    Rice: 3,000 to 5,000 liters of water to produce 1kg of rice (under traditional methods).
    Cane: 1500-3000 liters of water to produce a kilo of sugarcane (sic so not even sugar).
    Soybean: About 1000 liters of water for 1 kilo of beans.
    Wheat: About 1000 liters of water for 1 kilo of grain.

    So cotton is far and away the worst crop. Though, I admit I much prefer cotton clothes to any other fiber type.

    It is clear that cotton needs to be shut down as an industry in Australia. The driest inhabited continent on earth has no business growing cotton, especially as climate change is making us hotter and drier. It is environmentally destructive madness. The sooner it ends the better.

  27. The amount of cotton planted depends on water prices water availability. The cotton planted around Australia halved in 2018:

    Maybe this is still too much given the state of the MDB but that is purely a matter of water availability, This depends on the amount allocated to the environment which I would think has been shown to be inadequate.

  28. Ikonoclast: “I think it’s very clear that cotton growing in Australia and rice growing in the Riverina need to cease. ”

    Ikonoclast is in favour of centralised planning by which bureaucrats tell farmers what crops they can and cannot grow. Such planning has a long and unfortunate history.

    Why should a farmer have to plant wheat if global wheat stocks are in surplus and the cost of production exceeds the market price? Why should a farmer be prevented from capitalising on a wet year by planting rice?

    In regards to the MDB, what matters most is the total amount of water farmers may extract. All else being equal, it shouldn’t matter whether farmers use the water for crop X or crop Y. The farmer is best placed to make that decision although government agencies have a valuable research, support and information role that can help the farmer make an informed choice.

    As to rice, we known that rice growing in the MDB has been a boon for the environment. We’ve known this for a decade. This is why environmental groups like Birdlife Australia have been in the vanguard of fighting the ignorance and prejudice surrounding MDB rice. This is why environmental groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation have climbed on board.

    However, I agree with Ikonoclast re money, vested interests and lobbying. Our democracy isn’t even close to being a level playing field.

  29. The old Bogeyman of centralised planning! It’s ludicrous to suggest that centralised planning does not play a necessary and indeed central role in modern civilization. How is a city laid out with its roads, railways, blocks and plots? Centralised planning. How are health, education and welfare delivered? Centralised planning. How are the justice system, legal system and policing run? Centralised planning. How is national defence delivered? Centralised planning. How are infrastructure and utilities coordinated, and best delivered? Centralised planning. How are dams and irrigation infrastructure delivered? Centralised planning. How are natural monopolies best run? Centralised planning. If we don’t plan centrally and adequately, civilization falls apart and the environment gets trashed.

    The proof of this is in what has happened under neoliberalism for the past 40 years. It gave semi-anarchic free markets open slather on our society and environment. It’s been generating, spreading and worsening social and environmental disasters ever since.

  30. I might add to the above that the information revolution has strengthened the hand of centralised planning. This now comes down to the dichotomy of democratic government versus autocratic corporations. This applies far beyond just agriculture of course.

    In the field of agriculture, the sole proprietor farmer of a small holding, working his own land and understanding the minutiae of conditions better than distant bureaucrats or owners is fast becoming a thing of the past. Holdings are becoming larger and more corporatised.

    I am not necessarily arguing in support of industralised agriculture per se, but given the fact of it and how it is run with modern technology, state holdings could be run as successfully as large corporate holdings and probably at more benefit to ordinary people.

  31. I don’t have an ideological problem with centralised planning. Some centralised planning is good and as Pr Quiggin points out, large private corporations do their very own central planning.

    But you go way beyond a call for prudent central planning by advocating the planners tell farmers what to plant. In your latest comment you go further than that and tell us large state-run farms would probably “benefit to ordinary people”.

    In some distant future state owned farms and more centralised planning might be the way to go. In fact, I hope that is where we are heading. But as of now it would be a disaster.

  32. US coal update: advert for a blog post on the astonishing volume of renewables that FERC staff expect US generators to install over the next three years. If it happens, *half* the current coal capacity will become redundant, and a similar share of the surviving coal mining jobs.

  33. Hugo says: “As to rice, we known that rice growing in the MDB has been a boon for the environment. We’ve known this for a decade. This is why environmental groups like Birdlife Australia have been in the vanguard of fighting the ignorance and prejudice surrounding MDB rice. This is why environmental groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation have climbed on board.””

    One bird to me does not make “a boon for the environment”. Is this your claim Hugo?

    Extrordinary claims ( especially with no evidence to back it up) needs extrordinary evidence. My searches do not back up your claim that rice is “rice growing in the MDB has been a boon for the environment.”. Evidence please Hugo. I am happy to be proven wrong.

     I thought your claims needed some links. Bird life;

    “”In 2011 the Australasian Bittern was added to the EPBC Act as Endangered, however virtually nothing is known about how the birds utilise rice crops. …we do not know if the industry is beneficial to this species, as it is in other parts of the world (for a similar bittern species).””

    Hugo, how are the bitterns and rice going? Hugo where were bitterns before rice? If irrigated rice assists bitterns what is on the other side of equation? Number of billabongs lazer levelled. Vegetation gone? Wasteful use of capital? What is the baseline please?

    “”An Australian Conservation Foundation campaigner, Jonathan La Nauze, is more interested in another area of CSIRO work – the agency’s climate change research,which forecasts a dramatic rise in extreme weather events such as droughts and heatwaves, and a sharp drop in winter and spring rainfall across southern Australia.

    “We’re already the driest part of the world and water use is a key concern – cotton uses a hell of a lot of it,” he says.

    “Growers are aggressively trying to increase amount they can take rather than accept the current amount as the upper limit. We saw the Darling river stop flowing for months this year – extraordinary and avoidable.”” … “”Analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals both the dramatic ebbs and flows of cotton production in response to water supply, and the continuing intensity of water use despite the progress made. During the water-scarce season of 2014-15, cotton sales represented 1.7% of Australia’s agricultural commodity value but used 12.2% of its water. In the more favourable conditions of 2013-14, cotton generated 3.9% of agriculture profits but in the process devoured 24% of the water diverted to agriculture.”” … “”But even Cotton Australia’s own promotional material acknowledges that the crop’s irrigation requirement of eight megalitres a hectare is the second-most water intensive in Australia, behind rice (12ML per hectare), but ahead of alternatives such as nurseries or cut flowers (5ML).””

    And the ACF? Ricegrowers acf quote: “”When you buy Australian rice…you know that they’re careful with the water, you know they treat their labourers well. Who knows what happens overseas?” 
    Arlene Harriss-Buchan, Australian Conservation Foundation.

    And ACF’s Arlene Buchan again: “Arlene Harriss-Buchan, a healthy rivers campaigner for the Australian Conservation Foundation, argues the basin plan has social concerns at its base because protecting the environment means safeguarding livelihoods. ”If you don’t have a healthy, functioning basin, you don’t have any agricultural activities.’
    Dryland cropping provides 1.2 jobs and dryland grazing just 0.4 jobs per 1000 hectares of cultivated land.
    By contrast, fruit-growing provides employment for 74 people for every 1000 hectares of cultivated land and 16 jobs for one gigalitre of irrigation applied.
    Cotton, a northern basin crop, provides six to seven jobs for the same area of land and employs 1.2 people for a similar amount of irrigation water.””

    I must admit the social cost to existing communities can be great. Central west nsw has had 12 or more small communities virtually empty with schools, shops closing and populations in the fingers and toes region. Reason; coal mines. Uber disrupts taxis in darwin. Water effects are dramatic. Yet uber and taxis aren’t asking for gigalitres of water. Our food and fiber choices are competing directly with healthy environment. 

    Can anyone tell me why we don’t switch to hemp?  Less input up front more water in processing?

    And please Hugo, if you say things like “rice growing in the MDB has been a boon for the environment.” do us a favour and show us some proof not your bluster.

    Maybe we both need a week off.

  34. SMH tiday. No worries. We hardly planted anything. How are the bitterns again?

    “”The reservoirs were officially 3.1 per cent on Thursday, according to WaterNSW, but most of the lakes themselves were a sea of baked earth.

    Remaining pools will shrink further with at least six days in a row forecast to reach 41 degrees or more, including 44-45 degrees from Monday to Wednesday.””

  35. One of the main tenets of efficient rice production is to exclude waterbirds which eat developing grain. The aim is to have bank to bank growth without any “duck patches” which encourage water birds to land. Currently there is a shift to direct drilling or broadcasting of seed before flooding (rather than arial broadcasting of sprouted grain from planes into already flooded bays) to achieve this outcome.

  36. Regarding water and rice in the Riverina. Sunrice have offered growers $500+ a tonne to grow rice this season, a considerable advance on previous years. Very few have taken up this offer as it is more profitable to sell the water. It is possible that “centralised planning” will be unnecessary if this keeps up. Partially or non irrigated winter grains, along with lambs, will provide the major source of income.

  37. The rice fields around Deniliquin are about the most reliable places I know in Australia for seeing Little bittern and Australasian bittern. Neighboring wetlands rich in waterfowl such as Freckled duck. Some positives among a sea of negatives.

  38. JQ, Ernestine and anyone who has built used or been nudged by a model:
    “”The SciDash project aims to make validation of scientific models against experimental data easy, transparent, and continuously integrated into the model development process.Let’s identify the best models together!””

    I am ‘retired’ yet I’d love to implement this on mdba models. And every ‘model’ I can find. “continuously integrated” sounds promising. And python.

    “SciUnit, a Pythonic framework for data-driven unit testing that separates the interface from the implementation, respecting the diversity of conventions for modeling and data collection.”
    Also a specific neuron framework and a portal to test and visualise.

    I’d love to hear feedback on potential target models, modellers and commisioners please.

  39. KT2: “And please Hugo, if you say things like “rice growing in the MDB has been a boon for the environment.” do us a favour and show us some proof not your bluster.”

    I am a long term member of Birdlife Australia. The general interest magazine they produce has had numerous articles over the years about how certain wetland birds and various other wetland species have benefited from rice growing in the MDB. Those articles generally quote the hard science and experts in the field.

    If you want direct access to the hard science, you can take out a subscription to Emu.

    I used to subscribe to Emu but I’ve tightened the belt since retirement.

    Are you aware how important other human-made environments are to birds? Sewage farms are vitally important to many species.

    And what Harry Clarke said.

  40. From the Bitterns in Rice Project synthesis of he science as at 2016:

    Over the last four years, we have learnt much about the other waterbirds and
    wildlife using rice fields, and we’re keen on seeing them prosper alongside
    bitterns. We have recorded 53 waterbird and seven frog species in rice, with at
    least 18 breeding. We’ve found 11 species listed as threatened in New South
    Wales, like the Brolga and Eastern Grass Owl. The populations of several
    waterbirds, such as Baillon’s Crake, Whiskered Tern and Glossy Ibis, are significant,
    probably numbering into the tens of thousands in some years. Migratory shorebirds
    that breed in Russia can be found. Populations of Spotted Marsh Frog may exceed
    a billion in some years. There is much more to this story than bitterns.

    Good night nurse.

  41. These comments on the fraught links between rice growing and birdlife indicate just how problematic the whole idea of a prescriptive Murray-Darling Basin Plan was, and still is, as distinct from a more disciplined approach to public administration that sought environmental remediation of the MDB, recognising the scientific and economic complexity of the problem.

  42. Alistair Watson  “the fraught links between rice growing and birdlife indicate just how problematic the whole idea of a prescriptive Murray-Darling Basin Plan was,” +1.

    Hugo. Good morning patient Hugo. Nurse kt2 here for your morning medicine. Lets drop the ad hom eh?

    As you referenced what hc said, I spent a confusing time trying to understand that referece. So…

    Hc1. I don’t think it is clear. One thing about rice is that it can be grown only when water supply conditions are favourable. A flexible crop”

    Hc2. “”Cotton planting halved 2018.
    Maybe this is still too much given the state of the MDB but that is purely a matter of water availability, This depends on the amount allocated to the environment which I would think has been shown to be inadequate.””

    Hc3. “The rice fields around Deniliquin are about the most reliable places I know in Australia for seeing Little bittern and Australasian bittern. Neighboring wetlands rich in waterfowl such as Freckled duck. Some positives among a sea of negatives””

    Which of the above hc (I assume your harryclarke is hc?) were you refering to Hugo? 

    1. “A flexible crop” ( we sell water and don’t plant so less habitat for bitterns)

    2. “the amount allocated to the environment which I would think has been shown to be inadequate. ” (We sell water so biome drastically altered short term due to commercial return being greater for water sales than crop – or endangered spicies. Mdbp was going to make up for this effect. I hope it does soon.)

    3. “Rice fields best place to see bitterns… Some positives among a sea of negatives.” 

    Bitterns ‘positive’ for rice as they arrive 2 weeks after planting seed.

    As your references state Hugo, 60 speccies in rice, yet only 18 breeding?

    hc, if you are as Hugo states harry clarke, and anyone else think as I do,  that this “positive among a sea of negatives”, with bittern numbers still declining, indicates rice is becoming a claytons zoo for bitterns?

    Justification of Red List category
    This species is listed as Endangered because it has a very small and rapidly declining population owing to the loss and degradation of its wetland habitats. Urgent action is a priority to halt declines in Australia.
    Population size: 1000-2499 
    Population trend: Decreasing

    ENDANGERED (EN) – A taxon is Endangered when the best available evidence indicates that it meets any of the following criteria (A to E), and it is therefore considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild:

    And just an observation, saying Deniliquin rice fields is the most reliable place to see bitterns is like my child saying I am the best dad in the world. 😊

    I do bird counts for birlife. And just so we know what we are talking about. The Austalasian Bittern not little bittern.; “The Bittern Project was started in 2007 in response to concerns over the plight of the Australasian and Australian Little Bittern. Our research has revealed that the Australasian Bittern is indeed threatened and through our efforts has been added to the EPBC list as Endangered, while the Australian Little Bittern has less precise habitat requirements and hence not currently threatened.

    The Minindee fish kill has reawakened my inner environmentalist and tent outsider efforts. I actually feel some remorse now for not being engaged and have already moved to support both enviro water users and agribiz users. And more importantly I have engaged with local decision makers trying to come to grips with mdb vs bitterns vs humans. Bordering on black swan territory yet simple prioritising of enviro and social IF community engaged and on board, will see a better triple bottom line in medium term. Just can’t see it getting better in short term. Risk & Sustainability group at UQ I hope soon, delivers an up to date insight in all this.

    BoM says temperature this week from minindee to windamere (dam near mudgee) 37 – 40+. Lucky no turtles there… oops!

    And fianlly rice is a refuge. Good effort humans. Yet in reality we need refugia. It seems the place where the fish live – water in river – is now not even a refuge for them.
    “Refugia buffer species long-term, where as, a refuge buffers species short-term.” 

    I’ll get back to you Hugo when I get a reply from birdlife as to history of a/asian bittern and landscape alterations and hopefully a dynamic model we can then play with as the ball. Not our opinions. I am sure you are keenly interested.

  43. Robbie! Researcher had to crowd fund for tracker. One bird. How much profit in rice in Australia please?

    When is the rice season? It would seem bitterns haven’t been schooled in intricacies of rice season.

    “He flew 600 kilometres back but it was too early for the rice season and that was in September, so he turned around and flew back to the coast.”

    The tracker showed Robbie made nine state border crossings in 323 days and also divulged his favourite spot — the recently restored Long Swamp wetlands system near the South Australian/Victorian border.”

  44. Models like these: (except when copyright by wiley).
    This one says storing up water in dam and simulating flood promotes breeding. Ever other target species, but not aa bittern!
    As we have bulldozed mashes, wier-d, damned fragmented and laser levelled large swathes of land area, I can see that simulating a flood is good. Humans fixing up after the fact tho. And yes I like my rice. And cotton. Hemp?

    Interesting that robbie the tracked bittern flew back from rice as season not on time for ” robbie bittern”.

    Also, 3 scenarios only. Has model been integrated with mdbp and rice??? We used to generate excel of scenario data and allow another relevant model scenario to be acted upon via output from say breeding vs road works. Old school but it was handy to nuance infrastructure works.

    Waterbird breeding and environmental flow management in the Macquarie Marshes, arid Australia
    Richard T. Kingsford 
    Kristin M. Auld
    First published: 09 March 2005

    Colonial waterbirds breed in relatively few parts of Australia and the Macquarie Marshes are one of the more important wetlands for these species on the continent in terms of size of breeding colonies and frequency of breeding. Breeding data were collected for ten species of colonial waterbirds in the period 1986–2001: Little Black Cormorant Phalacrocorax sulcirostris, Little Pied Cormorant P. melanoleucos, Great Egret Ardea alba, Intermediate Egret A. intermedia, Little Egret A. garzetta, Cattle Egret A. ibis, Rufous Night Heron Nyctiorax caledonicus, Glossy IbisPlegadis falcinellus, Straw‐necked IbisThreskiornis spinicollis and Australian White Ibis T. molucca. Breeding of most colonial waterbirds in the Macquarie Marshes was positively related to flow in the three months before breeding and triggered when flows were usually above 200 000 Ml. Flow was also positively related to wetland area. These relationships allowed modelling of three different options for management of environmental flow, nominally an annual allocation of 125 000 Ml. Even though the Macquarie River is highly regulated, there were predicted to be major differences in breeding frequency, flow variability and wetland flooding for different options delivering environmental flows. Use of all environmental flows each year provided the least variable option while accumulating the flow in the major dam and delivering it at high thresholds provided considerably more variability for the Macquarie Marshes, increased breeding of colonial waterbirds and increased frequency of large floods. The size of a waterbird breeding event and flooding extent were still primarily affected by river flooding and diversions upstream, despite the amount of environmental flow and the predicted ecological differences among the environmental flow options. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    Australian waterbirds – time and space travellers in dynamic desert landscapes
    R. T. Kingsford A D , D. A. Roshier B C and J. L. Porter A
    Marine and Freshwater Research
    Published: 13 August 2010 

    “They respond to changing patterns of resource distribution, with rapid movements at spatial and temporal scales commensurate with the dynamics of the resource. The most serious conservation threat to waterbirds is a bottleneck in resource availability, leading to population declines, increasingly forced by anthropogenic impacts. River regulation and other threats (e.g. draining) reduce the availability of wetland habitat and decrease the probability of viable resource patches. It is axiomatic that waterbirds need water and such population bottlenecks may occur when the availability of water across the continent is limited. The rehabilitation of regulated rivers with environmental flows and protection of naturally flowing rivers in the arid region are essential for long-term sustainability of Australia’s waterbird populations. ”

    I’ve emailed birdlife. We will see if bittern / rice / cotton / interface with mdb plan.
    I’m hopeful researchers buried somewhere do have these models now.
    I will not be surprised if no one else knows about them other than a point in time value on a page.

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