Water, water everywhere

Who runs Water in this government? 19 May 2005

In 2005, WA’s Labor Government was having water troubles. Premier Geoff Gallop was the Minister. Other appointments were made to ease his exposure to the problem.

Once upon a time there was a kingdom far, far away from any of the earth’s other major cities.


Because of this isolation, the kingdom was idyllic for most seasons but became so like Paradise that many people from other smaller serfdoms like Kiwiland, Springbokland and SingSingaporia wanted to live there too.

Eventually, the kingdom spread so far and wide that the Nirvana-like expectations of green grass and abundant flowers and trees became harder to achieve – the kingdom was running out of water.

Water, water everywhere And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water everywhere, Nor any drop to drink

Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The King knew this and appointed himself Lord of all Water Decisions and made a lot of triumphant public appearances, often seen turning a sod of moist earth with a silver spade or turning on a tap to allow the free flow of the only resource his kingdom did not have in abundance.

But the King was tired. He was so busy looking after other aspects of his domain that he had to divest his powers to other members of his court.

The Department of Water Decisions was too big for him to handle because there weren’t enough good news statements to make. All news seemed to be bad.

When the sun shone hardest on his lands, the King’s subjects had to turn the taps off. They couldn’t make their gardens green or wash their horses and carts. The people got a bit miffed.

But – according to the men and women who served him closely – it wasn’t the King’s fault.

Buffer zones were created around the throne and Ministers of the Crown were trotted in to take the ire of the public.

But the King was still sad. The Black Prince and his opposition cronies kept asking the King to explain why there wasn’t enough water and he wasn’t scripted for their answer.

So the King called for his Minister assisting the Minister (who was the King) to ask his advice.

Perhaps we can have a Minister assisting the Minister who can assist the Minister assisting the Minister?this loyal servant said.

We can create another wall around you so the Black Prince cannot get to you.

So the Minister assisting the Minister (who was the King) created the Department of Water to work hand in hand with the Water Corporation. The Office of Water Strategy and the Waters and Rivers Commission, which had been in the Department of Environment, were folded into the Department of Water and everyone lived happily ever after.

Well, except the subjects who still did not have any more water or any prospect of getting any more water.

It came to pass that all the departments handling water did not know who to report to. They too were unhappy. But they at least had lots of other departments to blame if things went wrong.

Oh, and the Minister assisting the Minister (who was the King) was unhappy too. He had to cop even more flak from the rank and file and the evil men and women who wrote notices and pinned them up on trees throughout the kingdom.

So in reality, it was only the King who was happy because he didn’t have to confront any more bad news – and that’s the way it ought to be in a democratically elected kingdom.

Or so he thought.

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