We want ‘fair go’

Ned Kelly let­ter re-en­act­ment at Royal Mail

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE -

A 2019 ver­sion of the fa­mous Jer­ilderie Let­ter has been signed at the town’s Royal Mail Ho­tel, on the 140th an­niver­sary of the fa­mous Ned Kelly hold-up.

The lat­est Jer­ilderie Let­ter calls for ‘A Fair Go’ and high­lights the in­equities around wa­ter pol­icy that is de­stroy­ing ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

The orig­i­nal Jer­ilderie Let­ter, in Fe­bru­ary 1879, out­lined why the Kelly gang was forced to be­come bushrangers af­ter the in­jus­tices and cor­rup­tion the fam­ily had suf­fered at the hands of gov­ern­ment au­thor­i­ties.

The 2019 ver­sion has been pre­pared by the Speak Up Cam­paign and was pre­sented at a small lun­cheon held at the Royal Mail Ho­tel on Thurs­day.

Guests in­cluded Mur­rumbidgee Mayor Ruth McRae, Mur­ray Re­gional Strat­egy Group chair Alan Mathers, Speak Up chair Shel­ley Scoullar and a num­ber of Jer­ilderie and district busi­ness and com­mu­nity lead­ers.

The 2019 Jer­ilderie Let­ter will be dis­trib­uted to me­dia and politi­cians. The 2019 ver­sion states: We are a col­lec­tion of farm­ers, small busi­ness peo­ple and First Aus­tralians res­ur­rect­ing the spirit of the Jer­ilderie Let­ter writ­ten 140 years ago.

Our pre­dom­i­nantly fam­ily-run farms fall within what has be­come known as the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin.

To­day our fam­i­lies live in the shadow of a (Basin) Plan de­signed to ad­dress a per­ceived im­bal­ance be­tween the en­vi­ron­ment and agri­cul­ture. Even the most pow­er­ful will say that no one is happy with the Plan that by any fair­ness test, has failed our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties ... and isn’t that the truth.

It’s not a crime to be a farmer who un­der­pins the liveli­hood of ma­jor re­gional cities and towns that de­pend on agri­cul­ture fed by rivers and lakes. Af­ter all it’s an agri­cul­tural ac­tiv­ity that has sus­tained mankind for over 40,000 years. Our na­tion’s first so­ci­eties used ir­ri­ga­tion for food se­cu­rity and un­der King Menes Egypt ir­ri­ga­tion was im­ple­mented 5000 years ago.

When we signed on to the plan we were told we had to have:

Faith in gov­ern­ment that the plan would al­ways be adap­tive

Faith in gov­ern­ment that the goal posts wouldn’t change

Faith in gov­ern­ment promises that there would be no third party im­pact on our com­mu­nity and our fam­i­lies

Faith in gov­ern­ment that they would op­er­ate the rivers re­spon­si­bly and value our pre­cious re­source like we have

and we trusted that at the end of it all, there would be a se­cure fu­ture for our chil­dren, grand­chil­dren and for the proud world­wide rep­u­ta­tion en­joyed by Aus­tralian agri­cul­ture.

The plan’s fail­ure to de­liver each and ev­ery one of those as­sur­ances has de­stroyed our faith so that to­day we now have:

Tar­geted vol­umes of wa­ter rather than en­vi­ron­men­tal im­prove­ment as a mea­sure of the Plan’s suc­cess

Cat­a­strophic wastage stem­ming from a fail­ure by those who run the rivers to place value on ev­ery drop

Threats to our guar­an­teed ac­cess to wa­ter from the Snowy Scheme cre­ated when agri­cul­ture and power gen­er­a­tion were equal ben­e­fi­cia­ries

Col­laps­ing and im­plod­ing com­mu­ni­ties suf­fer­ing from in­sta­bil­ity and a lack of cer­tainty

Fa­tigue and dis­il­lu­sion brought about by ef­forts to work with bu­reau­crats and gov­ern­ments who con­tinue to ig­nore and be­lit­tle us. So what, pray tell, do we want? Is it so un­rea­son­able to want to stop the pow­er­ful from pur­su­ing the devel­op­ment of a Dis­ney world of un­nat­u­ral fauna and flora, cre­ated at the cost of com­mu­ni­ties that these ide­o­logues wish to de­stroy?

Is it so un­rea­son­able to want to chal­lenge a Plan which mea­sures its suc­cess by the amount of wa­ter it re­moves from agri­cul­ture in­stead of en­vi­ron­men­tal re­sults and the im­pact of thou­sands of Aus­tralians liv­ing in re­gional com­mu­ni­ties?

Is it so un­rea­son­able to ask for a halt to the in­tro­duc­tion of any ma­jor Basin Plan ini­tia­tives un­til the bat­tle lines and bit­ter­ness are re­moved and there’s a set­tling of the smoke, dust and drought?

Is it so un­rea­son­able to ask for our so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and sci­en­tific elite to stop us­ing our farms and the en­vi­ron­ment as pawns in an ide­o­log­i­cal bat­tle that they’ve cre­ated?

Is it so un­rea­son­able to ask that power­bro­kers cease fo­cus­ing on vol­umes of wa­ter and be­gin to fo­cus on cel­e­brat­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal suc­cess in which we - those who live and work and raise fam­i­lies on the rivers - have an ac­tive, will­ing and in­dis­pens­able con­tri­bu­tion to make now and into the fu­ture?

Is it so un­rea­son­able to sug­gest that we want to take our fam­i­lies to visit our ma­jor cities where we can hold our heads high among our ur­ban and met­ro­pol­i­tan peers who recog­nise us for the con­tri­bu­tion we make to the pros­per­ity and fab­ric of our na­tion?

Is it so un­rea­son­able to ask for the fair go that we’ve come to share and cher­ish?

Pic­tured at the Royal Mail Ho­tel with the 2019 ver­sion of the Jer­ilderie Let­ter were (from left) He­len Mort­lock, Gwen McLaugh­lin and Jim Muir­head.

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