PM refuses water meeting

By Alana Christensen

Local government, indigenous, farming and community groups have slammed Prime Minister Scott Morrison for declining an invitation to meet a local delegation about the water crisis, accusing him of handballing the problem.

The 15 bodies combined to write a letter earlier this month in a bid to get Mr Morrison to visit the region, or set a meeting so their concerns could be explained, warning communities were ‘‘on their knees’’ and ready for a ‘‘French-style protest on our national capital’’.

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar, whose organisation was one of the signatories to the letter, slammed Mr Morrison’s suggestion that Federal Water Minister David Littleproud and Murray-Darling Basin Authority chief executive Phillip Glyde would be more appropriate to meet with.

‘‘Mr Morrison’s response sends a clear message that the Coalition no longer cares about communities in southern NSW and northern Victoria,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

‘‘They’re prepared to shut down the most efficient irrigation system in the world, because there are too many politically sensitive challenges with the alternative. Our issue is that neither Mr Littleproud nor Mr Glyde are interested in finding solutions to our unique issues. We know that because we’ve spoken to them in the past,’’ she said.

‘‘Dealing with Mr Glyde and anyone else from the MDBA is the epitome of frustration. As we have said many times, they refuse to accept and acknowledge the negative consequences of the basin plan.

‘‘They are charged with implementing a flawed plan which does not include developing solutions in South Australia, and this is at the heart of many issues we face.’’

Mrs Scoullar said it was extremely disappointing that the PM has simply tried to handball the problem.

‘‘It’s a slap in the face for our communities, who have supported the Coalition Government for many decades.

‘‘Wiping his hands of the issue is a total cop-out, because meeting with Mr Littleproud and Mr Glyde would be a waste of time.

‘‘Our messages are not getting through — they’ve been told numerous times of the severity of the crisis in our region, and they have been presented with genuine, achievable solutions. But they don’t want to listen.

‘‘Mr Morrison told the nation early this month that he cares for rural communities and would do whatever necessary to provide drought relief and support. Obviously that was a statement for the television cameras, not a genuine offer to help.’’