Hemp! Hemp! Hemp!
The call by Australian union leader Bill Shorten for the country to replace water-wasteful crops such as rice and cotton with hemp is the sort of common sense I have been waiting to hear from the world of politics - as they bleat and argue about the drought and the pitiful state of the poor, over-used River Murray.
Which complete idiot decided that Australia should be a rice or cotton-growing nation in the first place?
Talk about inappropriate, illogical and completely damned profligate.
The ultimate inanity of it all is that Australia has to export its cotton to India, China and Korea to have it processed. That's only half an industry - with a considerable cost to the environment. The Cotton Australia website admits freely that cotton "ammonium nitrate, radiological sources, harmful biological materials and hazardous chemicals" are associated with cotton-growing. Chemicals such as endosulfan, sodium chlorate, paraquat, aldicarb, disulfoton and phorate are actually national security concerns, for heaven's sake.
What are we doing here?
All it can do is to pollute the landscape and suck up the water supply.
As for the rice. We grow the worst rice in the world, in my expert culinary opinion. I do anything to avoid buying Australian rice - because it always means a disaster in the pot. I love my son very much - but when he brought Australian rice into the house instead of proper Thai Jasmine, I was really piqued with him. I had to cook this crap? Guess at water measurements because it is never consistent with the ancient traditions of rice cooking? Our neighbours in Asia grow wonderful rice in environments suited to the required irrigation. I don't care what the industry proponents say, it seems to me that we are compromising our fragile environment for the sake of an unnecessary and second-rate product.
Australia now has a scandalous 2500 rice farms and brags it lives at the top end of the international rice market.
Australia, always short of water, now is in the throes of drought. But we still divert water for rice crops.
Hemp is the logical answer.
It is no silly hippie solution as the market conservatives try to propagandize. It is a brilliant fibre crop which produces a product stronger than cotton with by-products equivalent to wood pulp plus an excellent seed oil. It endures drought and climate variablility and it does not need a squillion pesticides or supplements.
But of course, gasp, it is "hemp" and attracts the knee-jerk response of the ignorant who seem to think it is a drug. It has negligible THC. The THC thing is the big red herring and the rice/cotton vested interests will drag it around to see if they can make it stink rather than change any of the things they are doing.
It will take a resolute government to tackle water shortage from the cropping point of view. One with a new sort of moral fibre - er, so to speak.