Political forces make it difficult to develop effective and efficient policies for dryland salinity. The politics of the day have had major influences on salinity and salinity-related policy, beginning with the clearing of land for agricultural development. Tensions affecting salinity policy include urban political power v. rural salinity; short-term politics v. long-term salinity; crisis-driven politics v. slow and inexorable salinity; simplistic and uniform political solutions v. complex and diverse salinity problems; the need for winners in politics v. the reality of losers from effective salinity policy; east v. west; and national v. state governments. These tensions will interact with our improving scientific knowledge of salinity and ongoing social and economic changes in rural areas to shape future salinity policies. Prospects for changes in salinity policy and outcomes over the next 10 years are suggested, including the following possibilities: more carefully targeted and site-specific investments in salinity prevention; the beginnings of success of current research and development efforts to develop profitable new plant-based systems for salinity management; ongoing debate about the appropriate role for catchment management bodies for in salinity management; greater attention to the problem of salinity impacts on biodiversity and infrastructure; reduced attention to market-based instruments for salinity; and ongoing changes in the economics of agriculture, timber and energy influencing salinity outcomes and, potentially, salinity policy.