BRING WATER AND LIFE TO THE LAND
The biggest construction and excavation job in Australia’s history is just waiting to be done. It’s a gigantic project that makes weak men quaver and change the subject!
It’s also the biggest financial challenge from an engineering and labour perspective a well! Why is water security such a huge issue? Here’s a couple of good reasons.
- We’ve all got used to living off $300B a year that the mineral and gas industry provides for Australia. The recent issues with China are sobering and make us realise how vulnerable we are if we depend on one industry!
- There is another industry. It’s called farming. It could be as big, if not bigger than iron ore, coal and copper. Like mining, it’s increasingly less labour intensive than it used to be as plant, combines, huge broad acre tractors and similar gear makes farming increasingly more efficient.
HERE’S A RECENT HISTORY LESSON
Australia has been running around $60 B a year in agricultural production for the past ten years. During the six years of what was the worst drought in living memory, we’ve plummeted to acclaimed $55 to $58 billion in production.
Why? Simple, we had no rain and insufficient storage. Farmers went broke, slaughtered their cattle and often even took their own life when they felt there was “no hope”.
2020 might have been a difficult year in many ways but, for farmers on the east coast at least, it has been a ripper! Rain, consistent, reliable and at just the right time of year, has meant record crops, a record harvest!
Farmers are cashed up and confident. Those that survived are anyway. So what’s the difference between the drought years and the year of plenty? Of course we all know, it’s Water.
So, we are looking in the face of $65 B a year in agricultural production. Depending on prices, it may go bigger! And yet, we still haven’t started anything major in water security. Meanwhile, other countries, sometimes third world economies, are moving to not only feed their own populations. They have realised food is a great earner of foreign currency.
Australia’s food and fibre is grown cleanly, and are considered to be the highest quality products in the world. All we need is dams to store the water when it does rain, and channels for it to go where we want and need it to be.
THE BABYLONIANS GOT IT
Hammurabi, King of Babylon, is famous for his quotation about having taxed the hell out of the people. He built irrigation channels off the Tigris and Euphrates River. He says “The people were happy.”
Here’s the complete quote and a picture of the Stele where it is inscribed 3,500 years ago.
“The Gods have ordained that I should govern the peoples of Sumer and Akkad, and have ﬁlled my hands with the tributes they have paid to me. I built the Hammurabi Canal, which is such a boon to the inhabitants of Chaldaea; I have the sent the branches of the canal across the barren plains of the desert, so as to provide for the peoples of Sumer and Akkad with unending supplies of water; I have made the desert bloom, for the happiness of all who live there.”
Today, Ethiopia is building a huge dam on the Blue Nile that will bring enormous benefits to the population. It’s easy to forget that China built the Three Gorges Dam in something like three or four years. It delivers electricity to 450 million people and water to 500 million for irrigation, industry and supply.
Look around, you’ll find that Mr Modi in India, did a brilliant job when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat in taking water to where it wasn’t needed and putting it where it was. It made farmers rich and happy by providing water security.
DO WE HAVE THE SKILLS?
I read every issue of Australian Earthmoving. I love the way Wayne Keene puts his heart into trying to grasp what makes the earthmoving industry tick from both big companies to the soul of the industry, the owner/operators and the fleet owners. Imagine having 15 years of work to put into dams and another 10 building the channels to where the water needs to be.
Next time you turn on a tap to wash your hands or have a drink, just pause for a minute to think about where that water started it’s journey and how it got to be such an indispensable convenience for you and your family. It’s bigger than that and can add a huge wealth to our country!
WE SALUTE THE EARTHMOVERS
Earthmoving is tough. It’s competitive. Even our owner/operators have to be businessmen these days, able to control their costs, control labour and get jobs in on time and at a profit.
Talk to anybody in the industry and you will see a man or woman who knows diesel engines, understands efficiency and bucket selection for the right type of material and is even a part time hydraulics engineer!
They can trouble-shoot the final drives on a crawler and are smart enough to know that plant maintenance is not a luxury but an indispensable way of keeping maintenance costs under control. Whether you’re an owner/operator of a Bobcat, an excavator fleet owner or an engineer working for one of the mega construction companies, you understand that costs and practicality is everything. You know those dams can be built just as surely as the Managing Director of Boral, Holcim and Hanson know they could produce enough concrete to do the job.
DO WE HAVE THE MONEY?
We know that we are going to be in debt for a $1 trillion soon. That’s a 1,000 billion dollars! Costing of the project to drought proof Australia is running, they tell us, around $30 billion to $50 billion.
If you ask me, it’s a bargain. If it means we can boost agricultural production to $200 B a year within three, four years or even a decade for that matter. It’s still the bargain of the century.
Think about the other benefits! We will take “Regional Australia” out of it’s cyclical good year, followed by three bad year syndrome and give them good years every year. Imagine a bumper harvest coming in like clockwork!
How about roads and rail? Sure, as people go to the inland to work as the jobs are created in processing food and fibre, roads, rail and infrastructure will have to follow. What a boost that would be for our industry, and of course we would need people.
Our government’s restrictive attitude to Irrigation holds our numbers down. Just because we are too selfish to share this vast continent. We don’t want to sacrifice the luxuries that we have to share it with people who are less privileged. For example, Europeans, Canadians, Americans or even Kiwis. How about hard working South Koreans, Taiwanese and Japanese. It doesn’t matter where they started, they should all be welcome, provided they are educated, want a job and don’t want to live off the government.
It’s a no brainer, with those people, we don’t only grow the capacity for endless talented labour but we would also end up with a much bigger domestic market than we have at the moment.
Is a population of 70 million hard to imagine? Not really. Imagine if we rang Boris and asked him what he thinks about the future of the UK. He would tell us everything is going to be awfully jolly and they are going to have a great time. But they are only 70 million people on a piece of real estate the size of a postage stamp compared to Australia.
Not only that but we are learning now that they are getting out of Europe that they can’t feed themselves. So, where are they going to get the extra food to feed that population? One option is the US and hopefully Mr Morrison will do something fast about stitching up a deal for Australia.
He could even kid them that we are reinventing the empire. Wouldn’t that be a great way of getting that extra 70 million people to live off Australian produce!
SO WHAT ABOUT THE MONEY?
Andy Kennard pointed out to me recently that Australia has a huge amount of unused liquidity. Think about the money sitting in superannuation funds that is invested in European or American corporations instead of being used to develop infrastructure right here at home.
So, what we are seeing is a lessening of dependence by politicians on the votes from the four big cities that have 65% of our population and an awareness of a wider demographic and a voting public spread, not just in cities but out there in the country where the real work is done.
Wow, if I was a country politician, I would get a good night’s sleep and actually do something about a practical program! It isn’t just all band aids we are slapping on at the moment, with these small $2 million or $3 million projects. It’s a grand national building scheme!
Just for your information, the Three Gorges Dam in China took 30 million cubic metres of concrete. That is as much concrete as we pour in Australia in a year. It can be done, it just takes the will.
CAN CATERPILLAR MAKE THE GEAR FAST ENOUGH?
You bet they can! If they can’t Komatsu, Liebherr, Kubota and Hitachi and all the other great companies who make top class equipment, will be lining up to work in an explosive market like the Australian Water Security Program.
It’s not just a dream, it will happen. Anybody who has seen “Outback Ringer” will know there is a huge space out there, bigger than Europe, just waiting for somebody to do something with it. Those boys in The Territory think that having a fun day out is going out to catch 1,000 wild cattle. The reality is you can get far more value out of that land if there was water security and you could turn it into growing of high value crops.
Mr Morrison, are you listening? You are doing a brilliant job in so many ways. This would really put the icing on the cake! So who is going to object? The Greens would go for it big time. They understand that the best way of cutting carbon and to reach our target is to simply grow more trees.
We could double the tree production with huge plantations in Australia. All we need is the water. We have the sun, the soil and the space. They tell me that you should never harvest more timber than you grow. So we look around for vast afforestation programs and we don’t see any! People have gone broke with forest plantations. Is that because of the water supply? I don’t know but it may be a factor. Trees need water, just like we need food. We could grow high quality timber and with sensible harvesting, enlarge our forests and harvest a crop at the same time.
France, a small backward country in Europe that you probably heard of, is on an afforestation program. They are up to 31% of the area of the French territory in Europe and already running new plantations of Oak, Apple and Chestnut trees. They get it. It will help us win over the guys who can’t sleep for worrying about global warming (yes it is actually getting hotter).
It looks like we have all decided that the earthmoving industry is the saviour of the county and all we have to do is get mobile. We may only be a small group of people, but we have friends, neighbours and families. Spread the word, this country can and must do something about this development. The inland is as empty as it was 200 years ago when Captain Cook first arrived. Let’s get serious!
If you want to argue this philosophy with me, I am happy to hear your opinions. If I am wrong, show me where! I have a burning desire to see this country grow and like all “Boomers”, I am running out of time!
For information on Water Security and the industry’s key role, contact Warwick Lorenz at Australian Pump Industries at email@example.com