I am now 80 years old. In my youth, this country embarked on a bold plan to divert the Snowy River, flood Lake Eildon and provide power to Central Victoria for decades.
The scheme involved bringing in migrants for some 30 different backgrounds and extracting two years of indented labour in return for full citizenship.
The scheme came in on time and budget. We benefited from thousands of great new citizens who have gone on to contribute to the well-being of this country.
The unifying force of having a national project gave all Australians a huge sense of achievement.
We are now faced with boat people in profusion and a coming election where our leaders are accused of having neither policies nor vision.
What we need, I submit, is a new national project that all Australians could get behind and which would give us the opportunity to employ tens of thousands of boat folk who could choose to volunteer 2 years of indented labour in return for full citizenship.
We know that when water is brought to Central Australia, it simply turns green. The problem is that rainfall in that region is in the ‘once-in-ten-years’ category.
Suppose that we cut a channel from the top of Spencer Gulf in South Australia to Lake Eyre and flooded it. It is below sea level and would flood as in ancient times when it was, in fact, a lake. It could become a great inland sea.
If the channel was wide enough for shipping, it could afford cheap transport to and from one or two new cities to be built on the banks of this new inland lake.
The evaporating water would create a whole new eco system, falling as rain after hitting the Flinders Ranges. The cities would then become a really nice place to live.
There are as I see it, two hurdles both of which are able to be overcome. The channel would have to go through the Flinders Ranges and the local Aboriginal Eyres Lake owners compensated,. subject to negotiation with the appropriate Aboriginal councils – which, I believe, is achievable.
The first is soluble with modern technology – I am not an engineer, but a feasibility study would quickly determine ways and costs of such a move.
The World Bank would, I am sure, be delighted to fund the whole project as it would sop up tens of thousands of boat folk currently presenting problems world wide.
Best of all, Australia would be seen as fostering a brand new solution to a festering sore, that is bold and innovative.
Naturally, a feasibility study would have to be undertaken, but if it is in fact possible, what a great project it could be!
John Newton, Wentworth Falls