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Sold Down the River

Sold Down the River: How Robber Barons and Wall Street Traders Cornered Australia’s Water Market

Scott Hamilton and Stuart Kells

The Murray–Darling Basin is Australia’s greatest environmental asset. The story of water in Australia is written into its ancient rivers, creeks and wetlands. It’s home to more than forty Indigenous nations, and it covers an area bigger than France. It is the beating heart of our regions and sustains 40 per cent of our food production.

In 2012 Australia signed up to the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, a scheme designed to create a market for the Basin’s water and to safeguard the environment.

But the Plan has gone horribly wrong. It has sold our farmers and rural communities down the river. It has contributed to appalling environmental damage on the planet’s driest inhabited continent. It has allowed a ruthless market to form, exploited by traders who buy and sell water as if it were a currency like Bitcoin.

Scott Hamilton and Stuart Kells, both experts in public policy, have interviewed irrigators, farmers, Traditional Custodians and water traders to tell this disastrous story. In doing so, they bring to light how we have failed to protect our most precious natural resource.

You can’t understand Australia without understanding water. Sold Down the River is compulsory reading for all of us.

About the Authors
Scott Hamilton

Scott Hamilton is an expert in natural resource management and climate change. A member of the Energy Transition Hub at the University of Melbourne, he writes regularly for the Mandarin and other publications.

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Stuart Kells

Author and historian Stuart Kells is adjunct professor at La Trobe Business School. He has twice won the prestigious Ashurst Business Literature Prize.

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Text publication date:
31 August 2021
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Praise for Scott Hamilton and Stuart Kells
andSold Down the River

‘A vitally important book detailing how a policy meant to save Australia’s rivers became the means of their destruction.’

‘A compelling exposé of how market forces are destroying the Murray–Darling Basin. The tragedy is we let it happen.’

‘A complex subject made enjoyably readable. Sold Down the River shows how water has become commodified in the tentacles of mercenary traders—and at a time when climate change is making water more important and more scarce.’

‘It takes writers with excellent knowledge, uncommon flair and impressive skills, to get to the dark truth of Australia’s epic water failure. Read this book and weep—better still, read it and demand change.’

‘With its mixture of anger and urgency, this book is essential reading on an arcane subject Australians should know more about.’

Other editions ofSold Down the River
  • Sold Down the River
    ISBN: 9781922459459
    31 August 2021
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