Water

Woes recognised

By Country News

Dissatisfaction was clear among the crowd at a recent drought summit.

With a trio of Nationals politicians before them, many in the crowd lamented the lack of action during recent years.

‘‘We’ve been pleading with you for years,’’ NSW irrigator Graeme Pyle said.

Yet despite the name of the summit, drought was rarely on the agenda.

Drought envoy Barnaby Joyce fronted up to the crowd, yet it was tough to keep it off the topic of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

In an attempt to satisfy growing calls from the crowd for a review of the basin plan, Mr Joyce said a senate inquiry could be ‘‘knocked out in a month’’.

The comment only led to a cry of ‘‘well how come your party haven’t done it, big fella?’’ from the crowd.

In the rare moments Mr Joyce was able to touch on the drought, he showed his sympathy for the plight of those in the crowd.

He said the focus was on ensuring there was help that farmers could access when they needed it.

‘‘There are so many frustrations, I can hear them,’’ he said.

Some called on the trio of politicians to get Prime Minister Scott Morrison discussing the water issue in an attempt to grow national conversation around the topic.

Mr Joyce responded by saying he was willing to challenge the Coalition over the matter, pointing to an incident that happened following Malcolm Turnbull successfully challenging Tony Abbott to become leader of the Liberals.

‘‘We said, ‘if we don’t get water out of the environment, with all those lefties, and into agriculture so at least we can start moving it — because they were moving towards 6000Gl coming out of the system — then you have no Coalition, mate’,’’ he said.

‘‘You can go up to Government House and say you’re the leader of the Liberal Party, but you can’t go up there and say you’re the Prime Minister of Australia because you haven’t got our numbers.’’

However, Mr Joyce accepted there was more work to be done.

‘‘We’ve got to do more, we’ve got to do it better.’’