COMMENT: One thing is certain. As indicated below, Australia faces "an even hotter future".

It's interesting to note that, since TWM withdrew its offer to provide assistance in April 2003, the drought has steadily worsened (contrary to expert opinion) and catastrophe now looms.
Coincidence... or synchronicity?

This situation need not have developed if Premier Carr and colleagues had put the interest of New South Wales ahead of their own. Predictably, Mr Carr has decided to retire before things get much worse. (July 2005)

UPDATE: (8.10.2007) Click here.

UPDATE: (16.02.2009)  The Perfect Firestorm strikes. An inevitable consequence of official apathy, incompetence... and time.
BBC   Last Updated: Monday, 23 June, 2003, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK 
Two weeks on from declaring that Australia's punishing drought had run its course, the country's chief forecaster has changed its mind. "The drought's not over," Terry Sheales, chief commodity analyst at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE), told the National Press Club in Canberra. The change of tune came as ABARE warned that earnings from exporting commodities - including both farming products and mining output - would slide 5% in the year to June 2004, making a second successive year of downturn. [...]
Worst drought on record
ABC Online  Wednesday, 03/09/2003
Last year was quite probably the worst drought in the history of Australia since federation, but it was definitely the worst since proper financial records have been kept, according the Chief Economist with ANZ bank, Saul Eslake... yesterdays Gross Domestic product figures showed a massive fall in farm income of around seventy percent and agricultural exports fell more than twenty-eight percent... easily the worst in the last forty years.
Global warming blamed as Australia's biggest city gets water curbs
Residents of Australia's biggest city, Sydney, were ordered to stop sprinkling their lawns or hosing clean their cars Thursday under strict water curbs local officials blamed on global warming. Premier Bob Carr said the indefinite curbs, to take effect October 1, would ban the use of sprinklers and watering systems and the hosing of all "hard surfaces", including vehicles, in the city of four million. "This is the ninth consecutive year, speaking nationally, when rainfalls have been lower than average and average temperatures are climbing," he said. "Those people who are sceptical about global warming ought to think again because this is the first very practical intimation of global warming being upon us," he said.
Scientists See Antarctic Vortex as Drought Maker
Tue September 23, 2003 05:04 AM ET 
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia may be facing a permanent drought because of an accelerating vortex of winds whipping around the Antarctic that threatens to disrupt rainfall, scientists said on Tuesday. Spinning faster and tighter, the 100 mile an hour jetstream is pulling climate bands south and dragging rain from Australia into the Southern Ocean, they say. They attribute the phenomenon to global warming and loss of the ozone layer over Antarctica.  "This is a very serious situation that we're probably not confronting as full-on as we should," Dr James Risbey of the Center for Dynamical Meteorology and Oceanography at Melbourne's Monash University told Reuters on Tuesday...  [...]
Drought slashes Australia sheep numbers, grain harvest
Severe drought across southern Australia has slashed the nation's sheep population to its lowest level since 1947 and cut grain output by more than 50 percent, according to data released Wednesday. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said sheep numbers had fallen 6.8 million to 98.4 million in the year to July due to what has been described as the worst drought in a century... The release of the ABS figures coincided with reports from monopoly wheat exporter AWB and trader Graincorp of major profit slumps in fiscal 2002-2003. Graincorp reported losses of 18.2 million dollars (13 million US), compared with profits of 48 million dollars the previous year, while AWB said it's 2002-2003 profits were down 59 percent on the year to 43.9 million dollars.
Parched, burnt Australia facing even hotter future, new study finds
Parched and fire-ravaged Australia faces an even hotter future with more drought and bushfires on the way, government scientists have found in a new study on the impact of climate change. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisationstudy has found that by 2030 there will be reduced rainfall, around double the number of very hot summer days in some states and fewer frosts in the regions that experience them. The release of the study, reported in the journal "Nature" by European researchers last week, coincides with the anniversary of the devastating Canberra bushfires which killed four people and destroyed 507 homes last January 18. More than 3,000 people attended a memorial ceremony Sunday to mark the disaster... The Bureau of Meteorology has said 2003 was Australia's sixth warmest year since 1910.
Australians warned crisis looms unless water usage dries up
Yahoo News Sunday May 30, 2004
Australians have been warned they face an environmental crisis unless they stop squandering scarce water resources... The problem is most acute in large cities, such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, which account for well over two-thirds of Australia's 20 million population. With reservoir levels below 50 percent in all of Australia's major cities except Brisbane, experts have warned something must be done... Proposed solutions to the problem fall into two categories, massive engineering projects to dramatically increase water supply or initiatives to reduce demand and ensure water is used more efficiently... The latest idea, released this week by the Farmhand Foundation... is for a national water grid that can pipe water from areas with excess rainfall to areas in need. The cost of the project, which Farmhand estimates would take a century to build, is 300 billion dollars (216 billion US), plus a maintenance bill of six billion dollars a year. [...]
Effects of Australian drought linger on
NZ Herald Monday July 05, 2004
Australia's dairy industry - a major rival for New Zealand dairy exports - will take a further three years to recover from last year's drought, a study says...The research shows more than 80 per cent of producers were affected by the drought. Of those, 55 per cent have yet to return to pre-drought production levels. Australian Dairy Farmers deputy chief executive and policy director Robert Poole said the drought cut milk output last year by 11 per cent, the biggest fall in 30 years. [...]
Warning of global warming 'insanity'
The Australian 16aug04
VAST tracts of northern Australia will turn to desert, the nation's alpine vegetation will disappear and thousands of plant and animal species will become extinct this century. These predictions were made by internationally renowned botanist Peter Raven as he arrived in Brisbane to deliver the keynote address today to the International Congress of Entomology...
Water restrictions are here to stay
The Australian 22feb05
MELBOURNE is about to introduce permanent water restrictions and other big cities will be forced to do the same. "It's inevitable they will all go this way," water expert Paul Perkins said yesterday... Professor Perkins chairs the Barton Group, which is searching for market solutions to the water crisis. On March 1, Melbourne would move to permanent water restrictions, Victorian Premier Steve Bracks announced yesterday. Adelaide and Geelong were ahead of Melbourne in adopting permanent restrictions. NSW Utilities Minister Frank Sartor has left open the possibility of permanent restrictions for Sydney. [...]
Australian Farmers Watch Skies as Drought Returns
14/4/2005  Reuters SYDNEY
...The drought that hit in 2002, Australia's worst in a century, is beginning to return... After a very dry start to the 2005/06 season, less than two weeks remain for most of Australia's grain growers to receive rain in time to set up a big crop... In the growing year to March 31, 2003, savage drought triggered by an El Nino weather effect decimated Australian crops, slashing wheat production to 10 million tonnes... It also triggered a mass liquidation of the country's 27 million cattle and 100 million sheep. Rainfall deficiencies going back to the big El Nino drought of 2002 still lingered, said Grant Beard, spokesman for the Australian Bureau of Meteorology... With 46 percent of Australia now declared to be in drought, federal "exceptional circumstances" assistance to farmers to help with groceries and interest payments on debt were growing by A$4 million ($3 million) a week... Australia exports around A$30 billion a year worth of farm produce to markets mainly in Asia and the Middle East. It is the world's largest exporter of beef, livestock, wool and barley, the second largest exporter of wheat and canola and the third largest exporter of cotton and raw sugar.
Forecasters fear Australia slipping back into drought
TerraDaily  SYDNEY (AFP) May 01, 2005
Forecasters have expressed fears Australia faces another damaging drought after the country experienced the driest four months on record. With farmers still struggling to recover from a severe drought in 2002-03, the National Climate Centre (NCC) said there was a high probability Australia would experience an El Nino weather cycle... The last drought cost an estimated five billion dollars (3.9 billion US dollars) in rural exports and cut Australia's economic growth by about a third..
. The dry weather has severely affected the rural economy, with a report last week estimating 50,000 jobs had been lost in regional towns. [...]

Drought help for Australian farmers
NZ Herald 31.05.05
CANBERRA - Australia’s farmers, battling the worst drought in a century, received an extra A$250 million ($269.71 million) in government support on Monday as residents in the nation’s biggest city braced for tougher water restrictions... Water levels are also at new lows in the major cities, with the main dams supplying water for about four million people in the biggest city, Sydney, below 40 per cent capacity after the warmest and driest autumn on record. Sydney’s Warragamba Dam, which supplies about 80 per cent of the city’s fresh water, is only 36 per cent full and residents have endured tough restrictions on water use since June 2004 as water supplies dwindle. [...]
Australian drought third worst on record
Wednesday June 1, 2:21 PM
Australia's agricultural heartland is experiencing its worst drought in 60 years, the National Climate Centre said, while the government said the dry-spell is affecting economic growth. The four-year drought was the third worst on the dry continent in recorded history... Low rainfall and extremely high temperatures have created the worst drought in six decades in Australia's Murray Darling region.... The area generates about one-third of the nation's agricultural output... The drought affects the eastern coastal states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, as well as South Australia and the lush southern island of Tasmania. [...]
Farms come cropper as dry cycle returns
The Australian
SCIENTISTS suspect eastern Australia, after a 50-year cycle of wetter years, has returned to the drier pattern of the first half of last century. "We have been farming, since the 1950s, in some pretty good years. The first 50 years of federation were much drier and I think we are switching to that drier pattern," said John Williams, a former head of the CSIRO land and water division. He said if farming was to be sustainable in the longer term, "it needs to be able to accommodate the cycles it experiences at least over 100, 150 years". [...]
Drought set to cut wheat crop by 21pc
NZ Herald 08.06.05
SYDNEY - Australia’s wheat crop is expected to fall by 21 per cent this year due to a severe drought, cutting exports and threatening to push up world grain prices.
The forecast for wheat, Australia’s top winter crop, was cut to 16 million tonnes, down from a mid-sized crop of 20 million tonnes in the last growing year... The bureau noted that prospects remain poor for the rest of the growing year.
Bitter harvest likely for parched grain farms
Sydney Morning Herald June 8, 2005
The drought is expected to slash production of the state's vital winter-sown crops by more than half - a dark outlook that could have severe knock-on effects for the economy. Farmers in most of the NSW grain belt are looking to the skies and waiting for rain before they risk sowing wheat, barley and canola, but the window of opportunity for planting is closing and the chance of consistent long-term rain is poor... Mick Keogh, executive director of the Australian Farm Institute, produced research this year showing the farm-related economy made up 12 per cent of gross domestic product. The strong flow-on effect of agriculture was the reason the drought had knocked about 1 per cent off GDP in 2002-03 and claimed 100,000 jobs, he said. [...]
Climate change 'will prolong' drought conditions
ABC News Online
Saturday, June 11, 2005. 6:47am (AEST)
Leading environmentalist Professor Tim Flannery has warned that Australia is now entering long-term climate change, which could cause longer and more frequent droughts.
He also predicts that the ongoing drought could leave Sydney's dams dry in just two years. Professor Flannery, who is the director of the South Australian Museum, has told ABC TV's Lateline that global warming is threatening Australia's chance of returning to a regular rainfall pattern... [...]
Australian farmers say rains not enough to break drought
Australian farmers welcomed long-awaited rainfall Sunday but said it was not enough to break a drought gripping the country's eastern states. Large areas of Australia's east, in the midst of the third worst drought on record, experienced about 50 millimeters (1.9 inches) of rain. Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association Dick Cameron said the rainfall at least offered farmers some hope and would allow them to sow winter crops. [...]

Like the Gobi desert
Sydney Morning Herald
  June 14, 2005
Like the creeping sands of the Gobi Desert, the drought is closing in on Australia's major cities... Australia's six largest capital cities - Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth - are facing a water supply crisis... Dr Essery, a former senior executive to Sydney Water, was until 18 months ago a senior adviser to NSW Utilities Minister Frank Sartor.. Dr Essery says the crisis is very real for most of Australia's major cities, but Sydney in particular is lagging behind in finding a solution... Sydney's main catchment, Warragamba Dam, has dropped below 40 per cent capacity for the first time - down from 86 per cent in only three years... Dr Essery says, the NSW Government is treating the situation as a short-term supply shortage, not a potentially devastating crisis. [...]
Spending on water runs dry
The Australian 
SPENDING on water infrastructure has plummeted in the past two decades as state governments have plundered the profits of water utilities and failed to reinvest in the sector. An industry analysis of the crisis has found Australia spends a fraction of the money most OECD countries invest in dams, pipes and other forms of water infrastucture.
.. Twenty years ago, Australia's infrastructure spending was about 4per cent of gross domestic product, against an OECD average closer to 3per cent. But the latest figures, from 2002, show Australia spent only about 0.5per cent of GDP on infrastructure, or one-seventh of the OECD average of 3.5 per cent. [...]
Australian Drought Towns Run Out of Water
Planet Ark  20/6/2005
GOULBURN, Australia - Severe drought is drying up drinking water in cities and towns across Australia, threatening to shut down major population centres but also creating conditions for a revolution in water use. Worst hit is the farming town of Goulburn, population 25,000, southwest of Australia's biggest city, Sydney. Its main dam, Pejar, is a cracked-earth dustbowl holding less than 10 percent of its 1,000-megalitre (220-million-gallon) capacity... Goulburn residents are likely to become the first Australians to start drinking treated sewerage returned directly to their water supply -- a practice long-shunned elsewhere... [...]
Big dry sees more farm income run out the gate
The Australian  21jun05
DROUGHT is expected to cut more than $1 billion off farm income next financial year. A worse than expected drought across the eastern states has forced the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics to downgrade its last March forecast.
Farm income is now forecast to fall from $35.9 billion this financial year to $34.3 billion in 2005-06, with earnings expected to fall 2.5 per cent to $27.2 billion. The forecast is based on the assumption the balance of this year will remain dry. [...]
Farmers advised to leave land
The Australian 
OWNERS of big farms struggling with debt across Australia's drought-ravaged southern states should leave the land as the weather worsens, a climate expert says. Australia was fast becoming a desert with changing weather patterns making fewer areas across the southern part of the country suitable for farming, University of Newcastle lecturer and meteorologist Martin Babakhan said today... At present, NSW is in the grip of one of the worst droughts in history, with June figures showing 91 per cent of the state drought declared, five per cent only marginal and only four per cent satisfactory. [...]
Desalination a joke, former water chief tells rally
The Australian
SYDNEY Water dismissed desalination as a solution to Sydney's growing water shortage a decade ago, according to a former executive of the utility. Charles Essery told a mass rally yesterday in Sydney's southern suburbs that the agency responsible for securing the city's water supply had examined a raft of options, with water recycling a favourite. "Back in 1995, we had lots of choices," Dr Essery told the 1500-strong crowd. "Recycling was very high up. Desalination was not. It was an absolute joke." Last week NSW Premier Bob Carr, visiting the Persian Gulf state of Dubai, announced the state Government would begin construction in 2007 of a $2 billion desalination plant to provide 30 per cent of the city's drinking water if the drought did not break.
Sydney's water use slammed
The Australian
THE federal Government has warned that Sydneysiders may need to accept recycled drinking water, amid criticism of the Carr Government's proposed $2
billion desalination plant. Gary Nairn, parliamentary secretary to John Howard and National Water Initiative administrator, said the contentious plant would be an "inefficient" use of resources that sent the wrong signal about the nation's scant water resources... Mr Nairn said the proposals were in stark contrast to what was happening in Sydney, where the Carr Government "did not appreciate the real value of water" and was not using the city's water in the most efficient way...
Urban water in Australia costs between $1 and $1.20 per thousand litres. "The equivalent in Israel is about $3 and in Sweden about $5," he said... [...]
We're in the red - Costa's bombshell
Sydney Morning Herald August 4, 2005
The NSW budget could be in deficit for the next two years, the state's new finance minister, Michael Costa, has admitted on his first day in the job. Mr Costa, who was sworn in yesterday as part of Premier Morris Iemma's new cabinet, has been handed the Government's two most serious problems: urgently bringing the budget under control and rejuvenating infrastructure. And he revealed the extent of the challenge, predicting a deficit this financial year even though the 2005-06 state budget in May forecast a $303 million surplus... Mr Iemma denied his reshuffle was an admission the state had been poorly run under Bob Carr... A winner in the new ministry is Carl Scully. He becomes Minister for Utilities, as well as Police Minister, so will be responsible for managing the state's terrorist response and dealing with future water and power needs. Frank Sartor, the chief enthusiast for desalination, becomes Planning Minister and will have the job of assessing the plant under the new streamlined process for critical infrastructure.
Millions in drought aid never spent
Sydney Morning Herald August 8, 2005
Almost $600 million earmarked by the Federal Government to help drought-stricken farm families has never been spent because the rules for claiming it were too tough. Federal departments budgeted for more than $1 billion over two full financial years to help farmers and rural businesses, but only about 40 cents in every dollar has reached those who needed it, a Herald investigation has found. While hundreds of millions of unspent dollars were being returned to the Finance Department, senior ministers continued to claim $1 billion was being given to people struggling through the longest dry period in a century... [...]
Relief bungling worsens the long dry spell
Sydney Morning Herald August 8, 2005
The delivery of drought aid has been an unco-ordinated mess, with no federal plans in place for such a long dry spell.The federal Agriculture Department was unprepared for the latest drought and had not planned to give extra help to farmers if the drought worsened - which it did. It even broke the law over its dealings with states and territories.The criticisms come from the Australian National Audit Office in its Drought Assistance report. A "systematic weakness" in the way drought claims were handled undermined the reliability and efficiency of aid to farmers, the auditor said. But the report's criticisms were widely ignored. [...]
Desalination plant to go ahead, drought or no drought
Sydney Morning Herald August 20, 2005
The Premier, Morris Iemma, has declared categorically that a desalination plant will be built in Sydney, "drought or no drought". His announcement yesterday goes further than his predecessor, Bob Carr, who called such a plant a contingency plan, to be built if the drought did not break... But Mr Iemma suggested the plant could be smaller than a 500 megalitre per day plant... The Opposition spokesman on utilities, Andrew Stoner, said Mr Iemma was about to "saddle Sydneysiders" with a "$2 billion white elephant". Mr Stoner said Mr Iemma had ignored the advice of experts and reversed the Government's position that a plant would only be built if dam levels fell below 30 per cent.
Up go the water bills to combat dam crisis
Sydney Morning Herald  September 3, 2005
Water bills will rise by at least 9 per cent in a State Government bid to ration the city's dwindling supply of fresh water and to cover some of the costs for a proposed desalination plant. The price rises, to come into effect on October 1, will not end there... Total costs could be as high as $2 billion if the State Government opts for a plant big enough to supply a third of Sydney's daily water needs. [...]
No water, no growth
The Australian 07sep05
...The great casualties in this shift are the nurseries, the green industries supplying turf, irrigation services and even lawn mowers. From December 2003, soon after water restrictions were introduced in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, and July this year, 161 green businesses - 43 nursery suppliers, 57 wholesale nurseries and 61 retail nurseries - shut down across the country. The total value of the nursery and garden sector fell from $5.7 billion in 2003, to $5.5 billion last year. About 10,000 to 12,000 jobs have been lost in the irrigation and turf industries in NSW alone since water restrictions came in.  ...hundreds of businesses have closed and turnover has dropped by about $500 million... [...]
Water scheme not worth its salt
The Australian 09sep05
RELYING on desalination plants to solve Australia's water crisis was a "bad call" that did not address the underlying problem: widespread lack of respect for the vital natural resource. William Dennison, who spent 10 years devising a scientific monitoring and assessment program for Queensland's Moreton Bay, maintains that desalination is unnecessary, energy-intensive and unsustainable... Professor Dennison, who is now working on a monitoring system for Chesapeake Bay in the US state of Maryland, said all Australian cities should look to the example of Brisbane City Council, which aimed to eliminate ocean sewage outfalls through recycling by 2010. [...]
Iemma's shock: we're in a debt trap
Sydney Morning Herald September 10, 2005
A wages blowout during the latter days of the Carr administration has left the new Premier, Morris Iemma, with a crippled budget and a showdown with public servants he believes have been given too much power. While the new Opposition Leader, Peter Debnam, tries to quell factional unrest in his own party, Mr Iemma faces the reality of a crumbling legacy. The impact could be just as devastating politically, considering the perilous state of the NSW economy and the sliding property market. Just a month after the Finance Minister, Michael Costa, predicted a small deficit to pay for the axing of the vendor tax, a new assessment of the budget concluded a potentially much worse sitiuation that may have ramifications until at least 2009. [...]
Rains fail to ease drought
The Australian 04oct05
GOOD spring rains have failed to ease long-term drought conditions in eastern Australia. The first month of spring has delivered strong falls in most of the drought-ravaged south east of the country, but shortfalls are persisting. The Bureau of Meteorology's latest drought statement, out today, says for the seven months from March to September, severe rainfall deficiencies extend from the far southeast of South Australia across southwest and south-central Victoria to west Gippsland... The weather bureau's National Climate Centre said the September falls did little to ease the drought. [...]
Green Carr denies climate of conflict in new role
Sydney Morning Herald October 28, 2005
Winds of change .. . former premier Bob Carr yesterday announcing his new role with the Climate Institute.
Bob Carr has aggressively defended his new role as a consultant with Macquarie Bank, describing journalists who asked if there was a conflict of interest as "silly" and "mistaken". At a press conference yesterday to launch a $10 million campaign on climate change, the former NSW premier was unapologetic about taking a job with the merchant bank dubbed "the millionaires factory" only three months after retiring from politics. The bank, which won billion-dollar road contracts with the state government under Mr Carr's leadership, is renowned for hiring former politicians and their staff...  Mr Carr, who will chair an advisory council for the Climate Institute and its five-year publicity campaign to convince the Federal Government to cut greenhouse gases, also defended his record on climate change. [....]
Carr's two bob each way will prove costly
Sydney Morning Herald  November 5, 2005
THIS week it was revealed that Macquarie Bank, for which Bob Carr works as a part-time consultant, is behind one of the consortiums hoping to profit from building the desalination plant he announced when he was premier. It's a reminder of the concerns about Carr's move from politics to a company that is benefiting so much from his government's enthusiasm for public-private partnerships... Carr announced the plans to build the massive plant not long before his retirement. It puzzled many that the proudly green premier should suddenly throw his weight behind the most environmentally damaging way of providing Sydney with water...
The interesting question is why he went with desalination and not recycling, which most of the experts believe superior on grounds of long-term cost and environmental benefits, including less sewage pumped into the ocean and much less greenhouse gas... It's quite funny he now chairs the Climate Institute advisory council aimed at persuading the Federal Government to cut greenhouse gases.
Australia headed for hottest year on record
Nov 13 2005  8:50 PM US/Eastern
Australia is having its hottest year on record and experts blame global warming for the trend, the government weather bureau reported.
The Bureau of Meteorology said average temperatures for the first 10 months of the year were 1.03 degrees centigrade above the 30-year mean and the warmest since monthly records began in 1950. With forecasts for continued warmer-than-average temperatures in November and December, Australia is on its way to recording its hottest year since annual records began in 1910, it said. The head of the bureau's National Climate Center, Michael Coughlan, said the rising temperatures were linked to global warming. [...]
Buckets of money down the drain
Sydney Morning Herald  November 24, 2005
Forget big one-off engineering solutions, the State Government should tackle Sydney's water shortage with a host of little initiatives like funding backyard water tanks and giving lessons in washing machine use, say critics of the desalination decision.The Government's decision to opt for a smaller desalination plant instead of the 500-megalitre monster it had originally proposed did little to calm the critics who urged it to pursue alternatives. The former managing director of Sydney Water, Bob Wilson, said the $1.3billion for the first stage of the desalination plant was "an awful lot of money" to spend when all that was needed was for the Government to build trust with the public, which had slashed water use already. Current water restrictions had cut Sydney water use by 90billion litres - twice the amount of water the new desalination plant would provide each year... Sydney industry could save 20 to 30 billion litres a year by substituting recycled water for the drinking water it currently used. [...]
Water solution a drop in the ocean
Sydney Morning Herald November 24, 2005
Sydney's planned desalination plant will be smaller than expected and funded by taxpayers not the private sector, after the NSW Government decided it needed more flexibility on operating the energy-intensive plant.The Premier, Morris Iemma, announced yesterday the Government would commission the smallest plant on its drawing board - one capable of producing 125 megalitres a day - at a cost of up to $1.3 billion. Sydney Water will look at increasing water prices to help pay for it - an extra $1.20 a week on the average bill, Mr Iemma said... Mr Scully said the estimated cost of the 500-megalitre plant was $2.5 billion, not $2 billion as previously stated... The decision comes as the Government continues to fend off criticisms of earlier public-private partnerships, such as the Cross City Tunnel... Sydney Water's managing director, David Evans, said no discussions had been held yet with private companies about construction costs. [...]
This time take a close look at the fine print
Sydney Morning Herald November 24, 2005
Just a few months ago, the
former Premier Bob Carr was singing the praises of public-private partnerships as the way of the future. The desalination plant was going to be a public-private partnership - no ifs, no buts. But suddenly the politics of PPPs have changed, thanks to the furore over the Cross City Tunnel. That project has revealed that while governments might get assets built more efficiently by the private sector, they can be forced into Faustian bargains to make the deal fly. In the early days of PPPs, guarantees of patronage got governments into hot water. The Airport Rail Link, built at "no cost to the taxpayer", has so far cost $800 million. In the case of the Cross City Tunnel, the commitments given to close roads and direct traffic into the tunnel - apparently irreversible - have drawn the public's ire. [...]
COMMENT:  Ordinary Australians suffer while politicians and bureaucrats ignore more efficient alternative solutions. Check out TWM's solution.

Australian towns menaced as blazes hit four states
NZ Herald 23.01.06
SYDNEY - Parts of Victoria and Tasmania were ablaze last night and NSW and South Australia were under threat as bushfires returned to southeastern Australia. Temperatures soared during the day and humidity was low. In Victoria, 12 fires were burning across the state, the largest destroying more than 4200ha of bushland in Gippsland and moving east towards the small township of Moondarra... Firefighters were bracing for the worst possible conditions, with temperatures of more than 40C predicted across the state and a wind change expected to push the fires to the northeast... In Tasmania, more than 20 bushfires are burning across the state... In South Australia, the Country Fire Service has imposed total fire bans along the state's west coast, the lower and eastern Eyre Peninsula, and the Flinders region. Total fire bans in NSW take in that state's southern Riverina, northern Riverina, and southwest areas.

Australian Firefighters Battle Hundreds Of Wildfires
Sydney (AFP) Oct 12, 2006
Australia's southern states were in the grip of a bushfire crisis Thursday, with high winds and temperatures fuelling hundreds of blazes across the tinder-dry countryside. Hundreds of firefighters were battling blazes in four states with homes threatened in New South Wales and the island state of Tasmanaia, where officers said they were facing "near-record fire danger."...
Unseasonably high temperatures for October, the country's worst ever drought and suspected cases of arson sparked devastating fires, destroying hundreds of hectares of bush and threatening property.
Australian farmers commit suicide as hope evaporates
Reuters Thu Oct 19, 2006
One Australian farmer commits suicide every four days, defeated by the country's worst drought in 100 years which has left them with dust-bowl paddocks and a mountain of debt, says a national mental health body. As drought rolls into a sixth year, stoic farmers are reduced to tears under the stress of trying to produce a crop and hold onto land sometimes farmed by the same family for generations...The rate among male farmers and farm workers is more than twice the national average, the NSW Farmers Association says... The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics suicide report says 2,098 Australians took their lives in 2004. Crop losses stretch across the country, 92 percent of economically dominant New South Wales state is in drought. [...]
Australia Pumps More Cash Into Drought-Hit Farms
Canberra (AFP) Oct 24, 2006
Australia will pump more cash into a multi-billion dollar relief package for farmers as the worst drought in living memory threatens economic growth, the government said Tuesday. An extra 560 million dollars (420 million US) in drought assistance will be extended to a further 44 farming regions scorched by the six-year "big dry", Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile said. This is on top of 350 million dollars announced last week and takes the total relief provided since the drought began to bite in 2001 to 2.16 billion dollars. [...]
Australian drought to hurt economic growth, reap worst wheat crop in 12 years
SYDNEY, Oct 27 (AFP) Oct 27, 2006
Australia's worst drought in recorded history will cut its wheat crop to its lowest level in 12 years and cut economic growth by around 0.7 percent, an official forecast said Friday.
The prediction came as Prime Minister John Howard said the "big dry" would put pressure on prices and said an interest rate hike might be best to contain inflation. The drought will slash the gross value of farm production by 35 percent, or 6.2 billion dollars (4.7 billion US) in 2006-07, hurting Australia's stellar economic growth, the country's top commodities forecaster said. In a revised crops estimate, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) predicted wheat growers would face their smallest crop since 1994-95 as their harvest falls to 9.5 million metric tonnes. [...]
States under pressure over dwindling rivers
The Australian
FOUR states will face federal pressure tomorrow to deliver quick remedies for farmers battling dwindling water supplies in the Murray-Darling Basin. At a crisis summit in Canberra, Prime Minister John Howard is expected to urge the states to consider emergency allocations for irrigators and speed up plans to allow cross-border trading of water under a deal the premiers agreed to two years ago... The meeting with the premiers of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland was called after data showed flows into the basin hitting record lows. There are now warnings the three dams underpinning the river system's southern irrigated farmlands could run dry by May... Water availability in the Murray-Darling Basin has become so critical that the NSW Department of Natural Resources suspended temporary water trading in the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys last Friday... The water summit will be held at Parliament House tomorrow morning.
Water: the blame game
The Australian Tuesday, November 07, 2006
THE blame game on water has ended but we are facing a response that has been too slow and cumbersome from all governments. The crisis meeting on the Murray-Darling Basin could have been held at any stage over the last few months with equal validity. John Howard as Prime Minister has been complaining about the states acting too slowly in response to the federal Government's $2 billion offer for national water projects and a special $500 million extra to put 500 gigalitres of more water down the Murray by 2012... But the impression is that all governments have been fighting each other and acting independently, and that's why... there isn't any more water flowing down the Murray yet. [...]
Australia suffers worst drought in 1,000 years
Guardian Wednesday November 8, 2006
Australia's blistering summer has only just begun but reservoir levels are dropping fast, crop forecasts have been slashed, and great swaths of the continent are entering what scientists yesterday called a "one in a thousand years drought". With many regions in their fifth year of drought, the government yesterday called an emergency water summit in Canberra. The meeting between the prime minister, John Howard, and the leaders of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland was told that more than half of Australia's farmland was experiencing drought... The drought is likely to affect drinking water supplies to many areas. Sydney's largest reservoir is now 40% full and many small rural towns in east Australia face shortages within a month... Adding to the government's embarrassment, the leading scientific body in Australia - the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation - this week predicted that rainfall in parts of eastern Australia could drop by 40% by 2070, along with a 7C rise in temperature. It said that by 2030 the risk of bush fires would be higher, that droughts would be more severe and that rainfall and stream run-off would be lower. [...]

Parched Bourke on brink of disaster  November 11, 2006
Rainfall at its lowest as dry spell tightens grip  December 1, 2006
Dams close to record low  December 4, 2006
Australia's brutal summer without end  December 6, 2006
Australia drought shrinks wool production-forecast  December 8, 2006
City in hot water: dams at record lows  December 8, 2006
Australian farmers struggling as drought crisis deepens  Dec 10
Drought Slashes Australian Wool Production To 20-Year Low  Dec 11, 2006
Drought to push up food prices  December 12, 2006
El Nino and drought combine for hot, dry 2006  15dec06
Sydney 'first to run out of water'  17dec06
Australian bushfires leave grisly trail of environmental damage  December 17
The water crisis: keeping a tight rein on wastage  December 19, 2006
Growth shrivels as drought bites  December 20, 2006
Record dam low brings new talk of desalination  December 22, 2006
Blackouts loom for arid state  December 29, 2006
Drought predicted to break soon  29dec06
The word from on high: we're drying up fast  December 30, 2006
Two dozen towns suffer driest year on record  January 2, 2007
Drought blamed for soaring grocery prices  January 04, 2007
Our government's water shame  January 04, 2007
Drying up: Murray on the brink  January 4, 2007
Slow death of mighty Murray River  January 17, 2007
Australia faces future of heatwaves and drought  18jan07
PM pledges billions to fix water  January 25, 2007
Drought Makes Climate Change Hot Election Issue In Australia  Jan 25, 2007
Killer drought keeps trade in the red  February 3, 2007
100pc in drought declared in Victoria   25 Mar 2007
Drought leaves Snowy scheme gasping   May 7, 2007
PM Urges Australia To Pray For Rain   May 16, 2007

Drought picked to worsen with a vengeance
NZ Herald Monday October 08, 2007
Scientists say drought-stricken farmers in Australia's southeast - including in key areas for growing grain and producing milk - face the prospect of spring rainfall 40 per cent below the annual average. Such a revival of the drought which has gutted Australian farm production in the past couple of years could have important implications for New Zealand farm exports. CSIRO scientist Wenju Cai told an agri-climate change conference in Sydney last week that this year's rainfall in the country's southeast should be almost the same as in 1967, when spring rains were 40 per cent below the norm.
This was apparently because of the Indian Ocean dipole, which scientists have recently recognised brings anomalous winds, sea surface temperatures and rainfall throughout the region, and triggers drought in Indonesia and Australia and floods in eastern Africa... Economists have already revised down winter wheat crop estimates by as much as seven million tonnes, after a lack of follow-up rain after planting.
COMMENT: During the period 2002- 07, TWM contacted the state governments of NSW, Victoria and Queensland with an offer to help end the drought. The Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, was also contacted. The offer was either ignored or rejected with claims that they had the situation under control. Click here for an example.
The latest drought report (above) completely discredits such claims and the best solution that PM John Howard has is "to pray for rain".(?)


COMMENT: Compare with the Canberra bushfires, 2003. Nothing has changed. Same official mindset, same result.

Two years ago (12 Dec 2006) TWM emailed the former Premier, Stephen Bracks, with an offer to supress the bushfires that were plaguing Victoria at the time. A letter from Bob Cameron, the Minister for Police and Emergency Services, was received in mid-March 2007 stating that TWM's offer of assistance "will be considered as part of  this [emergency management] process." Nothing further was heard from Mr Cameron and no action was taken regarding TWM's offer.

Australia's worst bushfire in recorded history.

Nineteen die as the blast of summer begins to take its toll
Verity Edwards and Ewin Hannan | January 31, 2009
The Australian
AT least 19 people have died, power has been cut to hundreds of thousands of homes and city transport systems have been brought to their knees as a record-setting heatwave continues to bake much of southeast Australia. As the mercury climbed to 43.1C in Adelaide and a near-record 45.1C in Melbourne yesterday, bushfires cut blackened swaths through eastern Victoria. At least 11 homes were destroyed at Boolarra North, southeast of Melbourne, as the state experienced its third consecutive day above 43C, the first time since records began in 1855... At least 400,000 homes across the state remained without power last night and the Victorian Government announced ministers would meet today to decide whether to invoke emergency powers limiting electricity use in an attempt to prevent further chaos. Authorities in Victoria refused to release figures, but ambulances were called to more than 105 incidents involving people affected by the heat.
Police: Death toll could pass 40 in Australia wildfires
USATODAY  Updated 2/7/2009

SYDNEY (AP) — Walls of flame roared across southeastern Australia on Saturday, razing scores of homes, forests and farmland in the sunburned country's worst wildfire disaster in a quarter century. At least 25 people died and the toll could rise to more than 40, police said. Witnesses described seeing trees exploding and skies raining ash as temperatures hit a record 117 degrees Farenheight Saturday and combined with raging winds to create perfect conditions for uncontrollable blazes. A long-running drought in southern Australia — the worst in a century — has left forests extra dry. The fires were so massive they were visible from space. NASA released satellite photographs showing a white cloud of smoke across southeastern Australia... Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said he would visit Victoria Sunday to see the damage, and that money would be made available to people who had lost homes. "I'm absolutely horrified," Rudd told ABC radio. "This is an appalling loss of life, an appalling loss of property. This is a terrible and devastating tragedy." [...]
Creating the perfect firestorm
By Jonathan Amos Science reporter, BBC News
Published: 2009/02/10 10:49:58 GMT
Bushfires are an expected hazard for the people who live in the Australian state of Victoria, but the scale of the weekend's disaster has left everyone shocked. Scientists understand the processes which trigger fires all too well and recent conditions have been shown to be frighteningly perfect. It has been extremely warm with temperatures over 40C. Strong winds have also been blowing from the interior of the continent... David Packham, who has studied bushfires and meteorology for many decades, said at the weekend that Australia had ignored the warnings on this for far too long; and that Victoria was paying the price for allowing fuel loads to build up to unprecedented levels.
"The mismanagement of the south-eastern forests of Australia over the last 30 or 40 years by excluding prescribed burning and fuel management has led to the highest fuel concentrations we have ever had in human occupation," said the researcher from the Climatology Group at the School of Geography & Environmental Science, at Monash University. "The state has never been as dangerous as what it is now and this has been quite obvious for some time."
COMMENT: At 10.02.09, TWM emailed Minister Bob Cameron repeating its offer of WM assistance to suppress the bushfires. Three weeks of unprecedented death and destruction and still no official acknowledgement of TWM's offer.
TWM has finally received a response from Minister Bob Cameron. Appears to be a change of attitude, which is appreciated. (25.03.09)

Inquiry ordered into Victoria bushfires, hunt for arsonists begins
Ewin Hannan and Rick Wallace | February 10, 2009
The Australian
AUTHORITIES fear the numbers of deaths from the Black Saturday bushfires could spiral to 230, as John Brumby called a royal commission into the devastating blazes and police hunted arsonists, labelled mass murderers by Kevin Rudd.
As the army was brought in to assist exhausted police in their search for more victims and help firefighters who continued to battle blazes threatening townships in northeast Victoria last night, federal and state leaders warned Australians to brace themselves for the official death toll of 130 to rise. Describing the fire-affected regions as "hell on earth", the Victorian Premier said the royal commission would scrutinise all aspects of how the state fights fires and prepares for them, including the policy of encouraging fit and able residents to defend their properties.
Bushfires bill could top $2b
Eric Johnston February 10, 2009 - 2:39PM
The Age
The damages bill from the Victorian bushfires is expected to exceed $500 million, ranking as one of the state's most expensive natural disasters and exceeding the direct cost of the Canberra bushfires six years ago. But some believe the wider blow to the economy could easily top $2 billion as shockwaves of the fire is felt in other areas such as lost crops and damage to public infrastructure. More than 750 homes have so far estimated to have been destroyed from the main fire front that devastated towns such as Marysville and parts of Kinglake in Melbourne's north-east. Some expect the number to hit as high as 900 with the fires hitting built-up areas. [...]
Evidence mounts of lack of planning prior to Australia's worst bushfire
Patrick O'Connor  World Socialist Web Site
Wed, 11 Feb 2009 21:44 UTC
The death toll from the Victorian bushfires which began last Saturday has now reached 181... In the midst of this response from ordinary people, questions are beginning to be raised about the lack of official preparedness for the bushfires. There is growing evidence that the terrible toll wrought by the natural disaster was in large part due to
the failure of government authorities to adequately plan and to fund and develop the necessary social infrastructure. While Victorian Labor Premier John Brumby has announced that a royal commission will be convened, for such eventsit is already clear that both the Victorian and federal governments hope to use the inquiry to deflect attention from their own responsibility. It has now emerged that there was no central and state-wide centre in place to monitor the outbreak of the bushfires and to systematically alert and evacuate communities in danger. Instead, the response was largely ad hoc. Numerous towns and hamlets were left entirely isolated. Some local fire trucks and fire fighters left early to assist the fight against initial outbreaks in other parts of the state, resulting in their own base being left undefended when the firestorm spread. Its speed completely overwhelmed thousands of residents. Many followed official advice and tuned in to local ABC radio for official updates, only to find that their town was not being mentioned, even as they witnessed it burning to the ground. [...]
COMMENT: At 12.02.09, TWM emailed Premier John Brumby with the same offer made to Minister Bob Cameron. Again, no acknowledgement of TWM's offer (as at 03.03.09)

UPDATE:  Acknowledgement received 11.05.09.

Victorian bushfires destroy 1800 homes, police close in on arsonist
Rick Wallace | February 13, 2009
The Australian
AUTHORITIES have doubled their estimate of the number of houses destroyed in the Black Saturday fires to 1861, as police close in on the Churchill bushfire arsonist. Fire chiefs said today there were still more than 3000 firefighters working on the remaining blazes burning in rugged hill country, which they expect will continue burning for up to two weeks. And about 120 international firefighters and recovery specialists will arrive in Victoria over the next week.
Early bushfire alert cover-up exposed
Jamie Walker and Natasha Bita | February 13, 2009
The Australian
CANBERRA and the states baulked at the $20 million cost of a telephone-based alert system that would have given early warning of the deadly Black Saturday bushfires, a secret report shows. The confidential review for Victoria's State Emergency Service in December 2007, obtained by The Australian, reveals that the technology to bombard mobile and fixed phones with danger messages had been trialled successfully for the agency. While the test run of Telstra's Community Information and Warning System was for flooding, the Victorian SES found it would work "for all types of hazard", including bushfire. Despite this, the system was not introduced because the Howard government and the states bickered over the expense. The internal report for the Victorian SES concluded: "Apparently governments are baulking at ... their contribution to the $20 million cost." [...]

We refuse to learn when bushfires burn
David Burchell | February 16, 2009
The Australian
IT'S one of our fondest contemporary fantasies that - in technology, in ideology, in taste - we've eclipsed the capacities of our forebears... We... like to imagine that our forefathers and mothers were rather dimmer than ourselves. Yet, because we respect the past so little, we learn little from it. And what we do learn we forget too easily, in a haze of sentiment and condescension... One of the timeless verities of bushfire disasters is that they will involve epic amounts of blame-shifting. This follows the same general principle of forgetfulness. Authorities know that for a few weeks and months after bushfires they are in the spotlight. But as the memory of disaster fades, so does the public's attention. Inept administrators need only to ride out the moment of heightened attentiveness in a blaze of shameless opportunism, ham acting and buck-passing before they can repose in quiet for another five or 10 years... The anecdotal evidence suggests that Victorians were let down not by some misguided sense of their own personal capacity, but rather by the failure of responsible authorities to entrust them with the information they needed, and which they were entitled to as citizens. But then, sad to say, that's hardly news.
COMMENT:  Compare with the 2003 Canberra bushfires. Nothing has changed. Same official mindset, same result.

Officials who default on their obligation to minimize fire risk (eg. ignoring alternative fire suppression methods) are just as guilty as the arsonist who starts a fire.

Bushfire royal commission to start in weeks
The Age
- David Rood February 17, 2009
The inquiry into Victoria's bushfires will begin hearing from affected families in fire-ravaged communities within weeks, Royal Commissioner Justice Bernard Teague said today... In his first interview since being appointed commissioner, Justice Teague said the immediate focus of the probe would be on the cause of the blazes, communications systems and what could be done to help fire victims ahead of next summer's bushfire season. [...] - AAP
Inquiry aims for changes before next fire season
NZ Herald Wednesday Feb 18, 2009
MELBOURNE - The three-member royal commission into Victoria's catastrophic bushfires hopes to have recommendations in place in time for the next fire season. Commission head, former Supreme Court judge Justice Bernard Teague, says he wants to start meeting fire victims and fire authorities within the next two weeks. The commission, armed with a A$40 million ($50.3 million) budget, will stage informal round-table discussions as well as open and closed hearings... He will be assisted by fellow royal commissioners Ron McLeod, who led the inquiry after the 2003 ACT bushfires, and Susan Pascoe, who is commissioner of the Victorian State Services Authority.
COMMENT:  TWM's submission to the Bushfire royal commission has now been published on its website. To see the Submissions page click here. To see TWM's submission click here.
Hundreds flee homes as gusts threaten to push fires towards towns [Australian wildfires]
NZ Herald Wednesday Mar 04, 2009
CANBERRA - Victoria was waiting tensely last night for an expected wind change that threatened to hurl major fires beyond their containment lines and towards more towns and villages. Strong northerly winds hit the state during the afternoon, forcing firefighters back from some fronts, smashing down trees around Melbourne and cutting power to some areas. Gusts reached more than 120km/h in alpine areas. The wind was forecast to swing back to powerful southerly gales late last night, creating serious problems for the 500 firefighters deployed along hundreds of kilometres of fire front... State Premier John Brumby urged against complacency as temperatures failed to reach forecast maximums and showers fell in some areas. He said while fire danger ratings across the state were lower than expected, they still reached up to 150.
Authorities say the worst of Victoria's bushfire season is over
The Australian March 04, 2009
Article from:  Australian Associated Press
AUTHORITIES have declared the worst of Victoria's bushfires over. Now comes the task of rebuilding razed homes and shattered lives. While the physical reconstruction can begin, questions remain over how the millions of dollars in the Bushfire Recovery Plan will be divvied up. Four major fires continue to burn, but forecasts for the next few weeks promise firefighters some breathing room, Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin said on Wednesday. 
Fire continues to burn out of control in Victoria
The Australian March 07, 2009
A BUSHFIRE at Wilsons Promontory in Victoria that began a month ago today on Black Saturday has continued burning out of control. Sophie Jackson from the Country Fire Authority said 350 firefighters were tackling the 25,000-hectare blaze, which was not threatening homes. It is the only major fire associated with the devastating Black Saturday outbreaks that has continued to burn out of control... During the weekend, Melbourne is expecting cool weather with showers, which should aid fire fighting efforts.
Country Fire Authority bids to shift blame for fire toll
The Australian, Gary Hughes | May 12, 2009
LATE warnings, lack of co-ordination and a failure to fully utilise information accurately predicting the path of devastating fires hampered efforts to protect communities on Black Saturday, it has been revealed. Victoria's Country Fire Authority also used the first day of evidence at the Black Saturday royal commission to attempt to partly shift the blame for the high death toll on to the victims themselves, saying communities should not have relied solely on official warnings.
The CFA's chief fire officer, Russell Rees, said communities had a "responsibility as well to obtain as much information and to make judgments", including looking out for approaching columns of smoke. But Mr Rees admitted under questioning that he did not know a map, accurately predicting the path of one fire that eventually killed more than 100 people, had been produced by an expert working alongside him... The royal commission was told that fire behaviour expert Ken Tolhurst had used aerial infra-red photographs taken at 12.33pm on Black Saturday to accurately predict the path the Kilmore-Kinglake fire would take between 2pm and 9pm... The hearing into the fires... continues today.

Australia: Time running out to avoid more carnage
NZ Herald Wednesday Aug 19, 2009
CANBERRA - Loaded with fuel, parched by an apparently never-ending drought and still traumatised by the February fires that took 173 lives, Victoria has 10 weeks to prepare for what authorities fear may be an even worse summer ahead. This week, the royal commission into the fires that obliterated towns and seared more than 400,000ha of the state handed Premier John Brumby a damning appraisal of flawed policies and management, and a long list of recommendations. The commission made no bones about its sense of urgency. Its interim report conceded that it may not be possible to draw up the comprehensive package needed to fully brace Victoria, but the state needed to do everything in its power to adopt whatever recommendations it could. "In some areas the lessons [from February] are so compelling that it would be unfortunate if the benefits of these changes are not made available ... in the forthcoming bushfire season," it said.
Brumby yesterday acknowledged the threat, releasing a list of 52 towns considered most at risk as meteorologists warn yet again of a dry, hot and dangerous summer ahead... Some measures are already being taken - new township protection plans, more controlled burns and roadside burning, and moves to improve warnings and create last-resort havens for people trapped by flames. People will be told it is safer to flee than to try to stay and fight the flames.
But many of the recommendations will not be in place for summer. Country Fire Authority chief Russel Rees will remain at the helm despite the criticism of the royal commission, and major changes to fire management are unlikely to be implemented. The commission's final conclusions will be presented in the middle of next year. The interim report presents a terrifying picture of what may face the state if the weather follows similar patterns to last February. [...]


DEAD:  173 (revised)
BURN AREA:   Over 1 million acres
COST:   $1+ billion. Possibly $2 billion


"Kevin, I think it's time we had a talk with TWM."


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Last modified: February 2009