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(generated from captions) This program is live captioned by Ericsson Access Services. Hello and welcome to The Drum. I'm Ellen Fanning. Coming up: Have New South Wales irrigators sabotaged the multibillion-dollar Murray Basin Plan? Please wait while this program loads: How many more hours will Australians lose to buffering under the NBN? And concentrate, please: Reading needs you.

Joining me on the panel tonight, Campaign Edge creative director Dee Madigan. Thanks for coming in again, Dee. Economics reporter at The Australian, Adam Creighton. Political editor at the Adelaide Advertiser, Tory Shepherd. G'day. You can join us on Twitter, using the hashtag #TheDrum, and on Facebook. A river basin on one of the driest continents in the world, five months ago, Julia Gillard announced a $13 billion plan to save the Murray-Darling River system, returning large amounts of water from irrigated agriculture to the river system. Last night Four Corners revealed New South Wales users have been flouting the rules for sharing the water. And the program exposed secretive discussions between irrigation lobbyists and a New South Wales bureaucrat, who was recorded offering to share internal government documents. The investigation also revealed billions of litres of water earmarked for the environment had been used to irrigate cotton farms in Northern New South Wales, as well as allegations of water theft and meter tampering. And we learned the New South Wales Government had been considering abandoning the plan altogether. Downstream, South Australian irrigators are furious and politicians are calling for inquiries.The fact that we've heard allegations that people are illegally pumping more water out of the river that was paid for by taxpayers to be returned to the environment is just unthinkable.If the allegations are correct, that's at a very senior level in the public service of New South Wales, that people have turned a blind eye to this, well, that's incredibly concerning.The Basin Authority says the plan is working, but the Four Corners revelations are a wake-up call.I think there is certainly a lot more trust in the southern part of the Basin in terms of the regulatory regime and meters, less so in the north. I think it's been a real good wake-up call for all of us to go back and look at our compliance regimes to see if there's anything more we can do to make sure that the basin plan is being administrated fairly.Tory, "Thirsty, greedy corporate farms upstream in New South Wales have been slurping up more than their share." What has been the reaction in South Australia?Well, look, as you said, it's anger. We face the situation where the Murray mouth closes over, we're facing potential devastation in the Kurong, and we do feel as though we have been dudded. The upstream states have consistently been arguing they should be getting more water. There's an argument over 450 gigalitres they want to keep in upstream communities that people down here are worried it will affect the way the river works down here. You can tell from that line that people are pretty angry. But we kind of have been for a long time, because the plan has always been imperfect. It was never completed in terms of where some of that water is gonna come from. We've had this ongoing tussle. And there's an idea the states run it but it's overseen at a national level, which leaves room for this kind of exploitation to happen.Because the compliance has to occur at a state-by-state level. And the authority is wringing its hands?Can't do anything. You saw last night as well the public servant from New South Wales kind of doing a wink-nudge with the irrigators, and that will only increase the sense of distrust down here in the downstream states.Adam, have a few corporate farms and some water brats in New South Wales actually -- water bureaucrats in New South Wales actually sabotaged a significant bit of economic reform in Australia?The river feeds into various reforms of economic activity. Farming, one of our biggest exports. The thing that strikes me about this is the incompetence of the original deal struck in 2012. The Federal Government stuck its nose into this. It was originally a state responsibility. Used its international treaty power to do so, which was rather odd. Things basically worked more or less fine, as far as I know, up until that point. And then we had this system where there was clearly no mechanism for checking. It's all very well to sit down and write down megalitres on a bit of paper and say, "You can have this much, that much," but when everyone walks away from the negotiating table and farmers get back to doing what they're doing, people can clearly get away with taking more than their allocation. And that's what had been happening. So, I'm just shocked that the enforcement mechanism wasn't more strict in the original agreement. Dee, with your usual clarity, you pointed out before we went on air, beyond the allegations of meter tampering, beyond the allegation that is millions of litres of water are being sucked out by big irrigators at a time of low flow, allegedly, when they ought not to be taking water from the river, that there has been a perverse windfall for big corporate agribusinesses, who are making money out of free water?They are. The whole point of this was to protect the farms along the Murray, but also to protect the environment. So, they're taking water out that they haven't needed and sold it to someone else. And this is $13 billion worth of taxpayers' money that's gone into it. But what is so extraordinary now is they're saying, "We should have an inquiry." We have an ICAC in New South Wales. And there's enough evidence that came out last night, and the Minister who said, "Oh, well, that's a bit of a wake-up call," that's extraordinary. From the Murray-Darling Basin Authority. None of this is new. This has been around. It shouldn't be a wake-up call from a TV show. Transparency, audits, all the way through, and now that we've got clear evidence of pretty dodgy deals going, this should be straight to ICAC. Internal inquiries into governments don't tend to find against their own governments.Astonishing fact in the ANU study, water usage at a Perth farm did not change at all. Extraordinary!Let's go to the source of that ANU research. For more, we're joined by Professor Quentin Grafton, director of the Australian National University Centre for Water Economics, who's in Canberra tonight, resisting the urge to scream "I told you so" into the television camera. You have been pointing out irrigators have been making another kind of windfall out of subsidies, paid to increase irrigation efficiency, stop that eevaporation and water going into the soil. Why do you say that has been a waste of money?Well, first of all, I think it's worthwhile just to highlight how much money we're talking about. So, the comment with $13 billion, that's in total. But irrigators are receiving about $3 billion - have received about $3 billion in terms of these subsidies on farm and off-farm. There's about a couple of billion dollars more to spend on them. And so the problem with these efficiency subsidies is that we actually go backwards in terms of stream flow. So in other words, when a farmer takes irrigation water into terms of extractions and grows crops, some of that water returns back to the system in terms of groundwater recharge and in terms of return flows. And when you increase the efficiency associate would that farming -- associated with that farming, you have lower return flows, lower recharge, and that damages the system. And so what we have been doing is we have been spending billions of dollars on these subsidies, which actually reduces the flows in the river. I just repeat this, because it's hard to grasp why this would be the case. Why would we spend taxpayers' dollars, billions of taxpayers' dollars, to actually send us backwards? Because that wasn't the original intent in 2007.No. It was to somehow give irrigators more money to put concrete at the bottom of irrigation ditches, to somehow reduce all the water that was escaping, because only about 30% ended up on the crops. Now I would have thought that was a good way to spend money. But you're outraged by it. You say it's rent-seeking and it's delivering $200,000 per irrigator. It's rent-seeking. Why do you say that?Well, I mean, I don't think irrigators are any different than anybody else. If someone has got billions of dollars on the table and they want a share of that, they'll do whatever they can to get it. And that's what the Four Corners program in part was talking about. It's a waste of taxpayers' dollars. And I have been talking about this since 2007. Certainly the intent in 2007, when John Howard announced this program with national water security plan, and Malcolm Turnbull was parliamentary secretary of water at the time, the intent was the right intent, to fix the problem, fix the river. And we put a lot of money on the table to fix it. And at the same time make sure that communities and irrigators didn't suffer. It made sense at the time, it makes sense now in 2017. But what doesn't make sense is to spend billions of dollars on these subsidies that sends us backwards. This is the reason why we're not getting flows at the Murray mouth, yet we don't have a drought in the basin. This is why the state of the environment report that came out at the end of last year tells us the basin is in real trouble. We don't have the transparency. We don't have the auditing that's taking place. And was that never built into the system, very briefly? Wasn't that, as Dee says, should have been built into the system to start with? Absolutely, it should have been. We have a National Water Commission that went out of business in 2014. The National Water Commission should have been doing a review of what's happening in the basin in 2015. Now the Productivity Commission is doing it in process and trying to do it in 2017. We should be adapting and auditing what's going on. That's part of the problem. It shouldn't come as a surprise what happened last night in terms of the Four Corners program.Tory, if I can turn back to you, I mean, is the Murray deal, the plan, salvageable? I mean, it took years to get this over the line, and already you see sort of an outbreak of arguing, the Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm, saying to you dreadful South Australians, that you steal New South Wales' GST revenue and that you're lying beepers and that somehow sending water to South Australia to evaporate is beneficial to the environment. What rubbish, he says. It's coming apart at the seams?I don't reckon we can take Senator Leyonhjelm as an indication of anything too serious! But there is obviously a massive issue and there are really big decisions that have to be made about the plan by the end of the year. They're talking about the sustainable diversion limits, infrastructure that they're going to invest in. Of course, we had that ANU report and the Wentworth Group of concerned scientists saying, as it is, it's gonna fail. I guess there are two questions: Can we get, you know, the original science back on board, stop the rorting and keep it in its current form? Or is New South Wales gonna pull out? That was another hint that was in Four Corners last night.There's still the science. Just on the science and just on what the senator had to say, surely he does have a point in the sense that we have a river that survived for thousands of years, and suddenly in 2012 it was gonna collapse and we threw $13 billion at it, and that's been a complete waste of money. And indeed the river is in exactly the same state or even worse state after the money was spent in the first place. Doesn't all that basically suggest that the river could have actually survived without all of the money?Let's ask Professor Quentin Grafton. Did the river need saving, a $13 billion rescue deal back in 2012?Well, $13 billion has not yet been spent. We've spent about - a little over half of that. And, yes, that money does need to be spent, but spent wisely. We don't want to waste this money. So, the most important thing to do is stop spending money, first thing. Second thing is to do an audit of what's happening - compliance, monitor, metering, and also what's happening with return flows. Once we've got that report, bring it to the Parliament and then we can start making decisions with the evidence in front of us. At the moment we're flying blind.Probably I think one of the things we do need to put in a rule, is if you don't need that water, you're not allowed to sell it, it goes back into the river. That seems a pretty basic thing. This is what we were discussing earlier, and there was an issue raised on Four Corners last night: Should agribusinesses like Webster's be able to conduct the perfectly legal business they conduct today, which is to buy up water entitlements and have those massive dams that we saw last night, when arguably sometimes they don't use them to irrigate agricultural crops, they sell them on.I think you should have to show how much water you need. There must be scientific ways of saying a certain kind of farm needs a certain amount of water, and beyond that you don't get it.What about you, Quentin? What do you say to that point? Should those businesses be able to make a living out of buying up water and then selling it on to thirsty farmers in dry times?That's the way the water markets work in the Murray-Darling Basin. But I think the critical question for me is, where do they get those entitlements in the first place? They got them because the state governments gave them those entitlements. And the quid pro quo was that we would fix the river system and fix them for the communities. We haven't done that. Unless we've got one side of the bargain operating, we can't get the other working either. That's the problem.Does it feel like we're back in 2007. Malcolm Turnbull was the minister overseeing all this in the Howard Government. Are we back to there?No, I don't think we're back to square one. We need to adapt. Which is clearly a problem. Anyone who saw that Four Corners program can see it's a problem. It's a much bigger problem than simply cotton farmers in New South Wales. We need to audit what's going on. Stop spending any more money. Please, let's not waste another $2 or 3 billion. We can't afford to do that. Let's look at what's happening and then make the right calls. So, this is fixable, this is doable. We can adapt. But we've gotta use sense. Let's be reasonable about it. Let's not spend money when it's getting wasted. That's nonsense. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm glad you could have that conversation with a wider audience thanks to Four Corners, instead of shouting at the telly! Now on to a subject that surely unites us you - buffering. Here's how conversations in many Australian households might go when attempting to watch internet-sourced TV shows.I'm Taryn.I'm Darren. We watch a lot of telly.We love it, don't we?Yeah. Streaming takes ages. So, like, it's hard to get... So, we only usually go through, like, a half an ep.On, what, Game Of Thrones night?On Game Of Thrones night, we'll just...Have a half ep.That was one of the best halfies we've seen.With the buffering, you can get popcorn, can't ya?You can go to the toilet. Here we go.Oh! Go to the toilet. I'll yell out. Still buffering.Yell out.Still buffering.Alright.It's back, Darren!I'm midstream!Oh, come on. You'll miss it. I'm not rewinding it. That's important, what you've missed. I cleaned the pool once on a buffer. You know, a buffer.Yeah.You've gotta go and watch the whole clip, I promise you! The $49 billion NBN was supposed to fix this, but now, halfway rolled out, it's still buffering itself. And some city households are reporting speeds falling to as low as a hundredth of what they've paid for during peak periods. Dee, the NBN says it has an image problem. If you spend $49 billion and end up offering urban Australians slower internet speeds, what sort of problem do you think you have created?It's more than an image problem. I think it's a substance problem. But this is the whole point. Remember when the Liberal Party was arguing against the gold-plated NBN. They're like, "We don't need that. These speeds will be good enough." People kept trying to tell them that the way we consume the internet will change. And, "Oh, no, it will all be fine. If it takes a minute to download a movie, that's OK." Of course, the way we consume has changed massively now. People are streaming shows all the time. And that has had a huge impact on it. And this system we have will simply not be up to the task.Well, the problem basically economically is when the system was rolled out, when the Labor Government introduced it, they wanted to keep it off the Government's balance sheet. In order to do that, you've gotta assume high rates of return that at the time NBN is gonna make. First it was 7.5%. It's been falling.That's to pay for the thing?Yes. That's to keep that $49 billion that you mentioned out of the Budget. Suddenly if it appears, then you don't have a $49 billion deficit, you have an $80 billion deficit. But in order to keep it out of the Budget, the return has to be basically the bond rate plus 1%. NBN Co has to keep up its profits to that point, and so it is charging the Telstras and Optuses of the world a very, very high capacity charge. This is the problem. That charge is very high so the Telstras and Optuses and iiNets have decided not to pay the charge, or a small amount. That makes the speeds very slow.So, basically, OK, the allegation is the NBN says, "Look, it's not us. It's those greedy telcos. They just want more and more people. They don't have enough bandwidth, but if they stick more and more people into the bandwidth they've got, even though the speed slows down, they make more money." That's the problem.I am paying for 100 megabytes a second. I can test. It's nowhere near that. People say it's wi-fi. I have mine pretty well set-up, it sits around 30 and 40.Telstra knows most customers don't actually care about really, really high speeds. They need a reasonable speed. Sure, no-one likes buffering. Most of the time, ordinary internet does work. And it also knows that the so-called ordinary internet is gonna be switched off in the next few years and everyone will have to be on the NBN. So, the incentive for the telcos is to get as many customers signed up now as possible.But let's draw Tory in here. The NBN is conducting a review of its pricing model. It says, "Look, maybe what we should do is get these retailers to guarantee the minimum level of service." Because most of us, unlike Dee, don't understand what these speeds mean. When they say up to 100, we say, "That's pretty great," and we end up at peak times with 3 megabits per second, rather than a hundred?Yeah. Unfortunately, they're probably gonna get away with it. Because like with energy, it's so difficult to choose between different, complicated packages and work out what you're gonna get. Sure, they'll guarantee a floor speed you can get. But people won't realise that that's what they are gonna get just when they're sitting down for dinner in front of the telly to watch their favourite show. That's when they're gonna hit that bottom level. During the day, when hardly anyone is at home, that's when the top levels come through. As Adam said, they'll be able to hook people in then. I think it's 18 months after people have access to NBN, they have to take it. So, we're all gonna be rooted!It's frustrating.Adam, you're actually saying different things. Dee is saying the problem is that in 2013 the NBN became an election issue and Malcolm Turnbull was tasked by Tony Abbott to, what was it, demolish the NBN.The fibre node or...Is it a problem with what's in the ground, that it's NBN light? Or a problem with price?To some extent, that's a problem. It's also a problem that the Government in the first place didn't acknowledge with the Australian people this costs a lot of money and is gonna appear on the Budget. It's really expensive. If they had have done that, now the NBN Co could charge a lot less and everyone would have faster internet. Because the Government doesn't want it on the Budget, and it's gonna cause a deficit, which is gonna happen. In two years' time, the NBN Co pays back $18 billion in theory to the Government. It might not. Suddenly that $18 billion is gonna show up on the bottom line.Hold on. Isn't it good debt because it's infrastructure?It's not really good infrastructure because it's really old Telstra copper wiring. I don't think it counts.It's both things. The Australian has led the coverage on this. Is there any prospect you can glean around your newsroom from their forensic look at this, that there is, in prospect, having spent the best part of $50 billion, with the project coming to an end at 2020, that we might end up at least being able to maintain the internet speeds in the city that we have now with ADSL? That's not too much to ask for?It depends on how much community anger there is and whether the Government will let this thing go back on the balance sheet, so to speak, and then let the prices fall. But if they're going to insist on a certain rate of return, we're going to have slow internet for a while. And the Government is putting it into regional areas that are desperate for internet. And the Government doesn't make money from regional areas.The viewers should draw the same conclusion from the Murray-Darling and the NBN - basic stuff-up, in terms of their design. Should have let Telstra split up and do it? Should they have let Telstra split up and do it?That's a difficult...How significant a political issue do you and Tory think it might be, Dee?The internet in regional areas is becoming a massive, massive issue. When the Country Women's Association is campaigning for decent internet against a Liberal Government, you know that it's an issue.We have been talking about buffering, but there are other things it can do - telehealth and so on. So, I think there's probably still a whole lot of people out there right now, who think, "What would I need the top package for?" As we were talking about before, your lifestyle changes so swiftly, before you know it, you're right up there. When there are things like services not being delivered, as well as not being able to watch Game Of Thrones or whatever, that's when the political pressure will kick in.Do you think that is something Australians think - that internet is a public utility in the same way that electricity is. And if the lights go out, which you know about in South Australia, then you hold the Government to account, regardless of the ownership structure or anything else? Do you think that the NBN, the broadband is an issue like that for government?I think it is. It's an essential service now. And not just obviously for the entertainment. As I said. So, there's only gonna be more and more people who see it in that light, and that's more and more people who are gonna be going after the Government for setting it up in such a way that people just aren't getting what they paid for.Alright. Here's some news. The Domino's dame of dual citizenship holders in Parliament continues. Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan has quit public office. There are doubtses around his mother's Italian ancestry. Under the Constitution, dual citizens are not allowed to sit in the Australian Parliament. There's no word yet on whether he will quit Parliament altogether. Any reaction other than a gasp, Tory? I've gotta go. I had better get back to the office! Look, I mean, as soon as the two Greens stepped down, there was a lot of - felt like there was an explosion of lists of all the other people who might have dual citizenship. It felt like, "Is this the end?" Because there's a lot of them. So, we knew in Canberra that everyone was suddenly going and dhecking their paperwork, so I -- checking their paperwork. So, I guess it's no great surprise.What about Matt Canavan himself - how significant a loss is that from Cabinet?He's an up-and-comeer, ban taken approximately seriously. Important issues on resources in the Northern Territory. Not to mention the gas conversation that we have been having around energy prices. So, yeah, I think he will be seen as a loss. I don't know if he can, you know, produce his paperwork pretty swiftly, if he could just step back in, but I guess we'll see.OK. Finally tonight, are our devices killing our ability to read and reflect, hollowing out our very essence? We look away, we check email, we scan social media, all the while generating those little dopamine rushes. But on the way are we losing the capacity for deep reading? That time when the world rushes by and there's nothing but the book. The Washington Post summarised this in a recent article called: can I ask you, Adam, when was the last time you were lost in a book?A long time ago. Our attention spans sadly have been shortening a lot. You even see this in print media, the pressure to write shorter and shorter articles. It's happening at broad sheet newspapers around the world. It's not # -- 600 words, it's 400 words. The pressure. I buy lots of books but only get through the first or second chapter. At my bedside, there are all these books dogeared after the first or second chapter. That's partly a function of being a journalist, you're trying to consume everything. But it's a big problem for politics too, because people can't focus on an issue and can't think logically about it any more. And political speeches too are getting much dumber than they used to be. And that's also a symptom. Tory, the article was wonderful. It basically described the way in which you're reading an article and you scan where the little marker is on the side to indicate how much further you've got to go, and within a paragraph or two you're off googling this or that. In a way, is the internet rewiring our brain, notwithstanding the fact of that wonderful thing of being lost, there's a car crash outside and your peripheral vision is gone and you're in the book - do you do that, do you distract yourself?I actually do. I was gonna crack a joke about not reading the full article, but it's not true, it's interesting. I enjoyed what he was saying about the tyranny of urgency. People want you to reply to email as soon as they get in touch with you. I have a lot of trouble sleeping, so I spend a lot of time in bed with a book, to put yourself back to sleep. I review books. That's a luxury. I can tell myself, "This is work. You don't have to check your email. You're doing something very important here." But I also feel that continuous distraction in everything that I'm doing, searching social media way too much, tracking the news as soon as anything happens. I mean, I think that's something all of us are a little bit addicted to. It does rewire the brain. I have read a little bit about that, and I do feel as though it's important that we fight against it as much as we can.Dee, isn't it perverse that digital pioneers quoted if this article, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, these people put aside time to read books... While ensuring that the rest of us are permanently distracted.Well, no...I used to be three novels a week.Really?!Massive. On holidays I will still inhale books. But I read them on my iPad. I find that if I'm reading an article on my iPad, I skim. People don't tend to read long copy online. They do skim for information. When I'm reading a novel on an iPad, it's still the same experience...As reading a book?Yeah. I get quite into it. But it has to be somewhere where there's no internet. Thank God in Australia it's so that I can, get right into my book!What about this notion of a fortress? You don't let anyone in? I'm reading a book, going off wi-fi: Is that a solution?If on holidays, it is. My kids know not to talk to me.Adam, the fortress?Yeah, the balcony.Tory?Lately it's been on aeroplanes. I was devastated to learn I could have had wi-fi the whole time.Isn't that awful?!No wi-fi!Keep the fortress.That's it for The Drum. Thanks to Adam Creighton, Dee Madigan and Tory Shepherd. Julia Baird will be back with you tomorrow night. Have a good evening. Goodnight.

Hi. I'm Charlie Pickering, and welcome to my conversation
with Nalini Joshi. Now, it's a golden rule of showbiz
that maths sells tickets. Alright. You put maths on TV,
millions of people will tune in. That's obviously not the case. People don't think maths
is entertaining. You can't get kids to pay attention
to maths at high school. And the problem is,
we can't dispatch Nalini Joshi to every single high school
in the country. She made me fascinated about maths and she made people at home
fascinated about mathematics. It's been a core part of her life and part of an incredible story. Enjoy.

I have a confession to make. When I was at high school,
I gave up on maths, so much so that when I planned to drop it
as a subject in my final year, my mate and I cheated on our
last exam by swapping our papers. That way neither of us had to learn
more than half the syllabus. We were never caught, but our karmic punishment was that when our combined knowledge
got us a decent mark, our parents and teachers made
both of us do maths in Year 12. (LAUGHTER) But none of that would have happened if I could have spent five minutes
with my next guest. Would you please welcome one of
Australia's leading mathematicians,