Bookmarked Welcome back, Darling (ABC News)

Australia’s third-longest river is full to the brim once more as floodwaters from March storms bring its first major flush after years of devastating drought.

Kath Sullivan and Nathan Morris explore what it means to have water back in the Darling River. In contrast with the past few years of dry river beds, towns like Brewarrina, Wilcannia and Menindee have become energised once again.

When a human is dehydrated, it’s not very energised, it’s negative and tired — when it’s hydrated, you’ve got a lot of energy.

The catch is that it is not all good news. Even with attempts to re-stock the river with fingerlings, some species may not return. In addition to this, much of the region is still dry as the rain has not fallen.

Modelling by the CSIRO shows annual basin inflows averaged 9,407 gigalitres per year from 1900 to 1999/2000. 

In the 20 years since, average annual inflows to the system have almost halved, falling to 4,820 gigalitres.

Associated with the flush, a number of people have shared pieces from the past. Including the Menindee Paddlesteamer:

And Menindee Late in flood:

Living in the city, it is hard to fathom how significant this is.

Bookmarked The mystery of the Murray-Darling’s vanishing flows (

More than 2 trillion litres of water — enough to fill Sydney Harbour four and a half times — has gone missing from our largest and most precious river system — the Murray-Darling Basin.

And it’s happened in what was already one of the driest periods the basin has seen.

According to an investigation by some of Australia’s top water scientists, shared exclusively with the ABC, 20 per cent of the water expected to flow down the rivers from 2012-2019 was simply not there. That’s despite almost $7 billion being spent to protect the health of the system’s rivers and ecosystems that rely on them.

Was it stolen? Was it lost? Has climate change made it go up in steam? Or was it simply never there in the first place?

There are clues scattered up and down the rivers but one simple message is clear in the scientists’ findings. For the first time, they provide evidence that the Murray-Darling Basin Plan — the most expensive environmental program in Australia’s history — is delivering much less water than was expected.

  • Tampered meters and criminal prosecutions
  • Shadow take
  • The cash splash
  • Climate change
  • The water was never there

Whatever is the state of play, we may need to Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“The current basin plan tries to pretend that we can do everything with a smaller and smaller cake,” says Professor Pittock.

“What this really means is that society is going to have to make some hard choices. How much irrigated agriculture do we want as a society versus how much do we want to retain by way of wetlands and ecosystems [or] of sites of cultural value to Indigenous people?”

Liked The coronavirus emergency plan has been activated. Here’s what that means for you (ABC News)

What if things get worse?

The emergency response plan outlines responses to three levels of outbreak severity — low, moderate and high.

Under the plan, a worst-case scenario outbreak would see:

  • Large gatherings cancelled
  • People having to work from home
  • Mortuary services prioritised
  • Aged care homes locked down
  • Childcare centres closed
Liked The USA is imprisoning people it finds undesirable. Australia has already lived this nightmare | Jason Wilson (the Guardian)

As white settler cultures, Australia and the United States share many things. And one is a long history of confining and concentrating people that the settler population determines to be undesirable. In both countries, genocidal hot wars against native populations petered out into a practice dumping remnant indigenous people into reservations or missions.

Liked China’s government has given location-tracking watches to 17,000 children (MIT Technology Review)

The smart watches use chips developed and designed by BeiDou, a Chinese satellite navigation system, to pinpoint a child’s position within 10 meters.The news: Seventeen thousand students at 60 elementary schools in Guangzhou received fancy new gadgets for their wrists last week, according to the Guangzhou Daily (link in Chinese).

Liked The Mapping of Massacres (The New Yorker)

Place names can be damning evidence of colonial history. On a map of Australia, you’ll see Murderers Flat, Massacre Inlet, Haunted Creek, and Slaughterhouse Gully.

Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872 – A project by Lyndall Ryan and her team at Newcastle University are digitally documenting the frontier massacres that occurred in the settlement of Australia. There have been calls to have these conflicts recognised in the War Memorial in Canberra as an example of frontier warfare. The Guardian have used this dataset to create an interactive map as a way of telling stories long silenced. For a history of maps themselves, Clive Thompson’s has written a post for the Smithsonian.
Bookmarked Australia’s war on encryption: the sweeping new powers rushed into law by Paul Karp (the Guardian)

Australia has made itself a global guinea pig in testing a regime to crack encrypted communication

Paul Karp discusses the new digital laws that have been passed meaning that providers can now be asked to provide access to users.

While a law enforcement agency may only be targeting one criminal suspect, that does not mean a technological trap will not harm others.

Danny O’Brien from EFF also provides context on this change.

Tristan Greene argues that it will kill the Australian tech scene:

Another way of putting it: Australia‘s tech scene will soon be located on the Wayback Machine.

Liked Australia is the Testbed for the World’s Most Extreme Copyright Blocks (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

They don’t even need to take all the VPNs: as the Chinese government censors have shown in their dealings with Apple, a well-provisioned national firewall can be made compatible with VPNs, simply by requiring VPNs to share their keys with national censors, allowing for surveillance of VPN users. VPNs that aren’t surveillance-friendly are blocked at the national firewall.

In 2015, the entertainment companies convinced Australia to swallow a fly, and insisted that would be the end of it, no spiders required. Now they’re asking the country to swallow just a little spider to eat the fly, and assuring us there will be no bird to follow. The bird will come, and then the cat, the dog and so on — we know how that one ends.

Replied to Stop dreaming, Australia: Google is staying in Sydney by John McDuling (The Sydney Morning Herald)

Amazon, for example, is currently auditioning 20 US cities to be the location for its second headquarters in North America. Those shortlisted include “rust-belt” cities such as Pittsburgh, Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio (although two decidedly ‘global’ cities, New York and Washington DC, are the firm favourites to prevail).

The reaction from Australian cities to whispers that Google could leave Sydney suggests the search giant could have conducted a similar bake-off in Australia if it wanted to.

Maybe Google could move to Federation Square in Melbourne? It would seem that is a space for sale.
Liked Andrew Laming: this is what I really meant about teachers' pay (The Sydney Morning Herald)

If the school year is grinding teachers down mentally to the point where long holidays are required, then the solution is to address what is causing the problems in school term time.

First we must offer teachers the chance to go home like the rest of us and switch off. Second, the bulk of lesson planning needs to shift out of term time, even if teachers are on-site over school holidays. That is when the pupil-free days should occur.

Third, I want principals to change culture tomorrow and be given a slice of the Gonski resources to fund the extra hours that definitively improve student outcomes.

Fourth, we need an explicit focus on the children that do not gain a year of learning in a calendar year, and not dump the responsibility solely on classroom teachers who are forced to pass the parcel.

Finally, states and territories must replace annual incremental pay rises with a genuine teacher-designed merit-based model rewarding sub-specialisation and further education.