Tocumwal rally draws 3000 people calling for a pause to the basin plan

By Sophie Baldwin

The crowd was large and vocal as more than 3000 passionate and aggrieved farmers and community members descended on Tocumwal on Thursday, calling for an immediate pause to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Tired of their repeated attempts to have their desperate pleas heard, the protesters were unanimous in their support for a call for Federal Water Minister David Littleproud to step down from his position.

An effigy of the water minister was dropped from the Tocumwal bridge, which was shutdown by protesters, with one member of the crowd quipping they hoped he floated all the way down the Murray River to South Australia and out to sea.

Blighty dairy farmer and speaker Lachlan Marshall, who has had to sell part of his dairy herd, told the crowd the continued water mismanagement that was going unchecked must be stopped.

"If it occurred at this level in any other sector — health, education or public transport — heads would roll and we would have a royal commission," Mr Marshall said.

“But in water, because it is a very complex area, the water minister is being allowed to get away with it. Enough is enough."

An effigy of Federal Water Minister David Littleproud is thrown off the bridge during the rally.

The absence of Federal Member for Farrer Sussan Ley was also noted, with one speaker describing her as "missing in action" and a protester sign quoting 'Desperately Seeking Sussan'.

Mr Marshall described Ms Ley as comic book character Susan Storm, the invisible woman, and Mr Littleproud as Aquaman.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed called for Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum to move from the Nationals to the cross benches and stand up for the community and help fix the basin plan.

Rally organiser Jan Beer said there were immediate, medium and long-term solutions which would overcome many of the present issues, but the Federal Government was refusing to work with communities.

She said as a matter of urgency the government must construct Lock Zero; revise the objectives for the Lower Lakes, Murray Mouth and Coorong; clarify the water act; install standardised metering; and allow the 1000 Gl of conveyance/transmission losses to be borne by the environment, providing an immediate injection of water into the irrigator pool, enabling the farming community to get on with the job of growing food for the nation.

 “We are desperate to work with governments to develop a basin plan that provides the social, economic and environmental balance we were promised," Ms Beer said.

The Tocumwal bridge is shutdown during a rally in the town, with protesters calling for a pause in the Murray Darling Basin Plan and the resignation of Federal Water Minister David Littleproud.

Rally organiser Darcy Hare said he was "exceptionally happy" with the turnout, considering  people travelled up to two hours to attend.

"The tide is starting to turn," Mr Hare said.

"We are seeing Littleproud defending himself more and more in the media as reporters question the science behind these ridiculous decisions.

"There is anger, angst and worry among our rural communities but I think there is also positivity that common sense will start to prevail."

Dairy farmer Pat Nicholson from Girgarre said he attended the rally because water was impacting his dairy business and without change, he — along with many other farming businesses in northern Victoria — would not be there in the future.

"There was so much support there today — not just from farmers and irrigators, but the wider community as well," Mr Nicholson said.

"I think it sends a clear message, especially to the politicians who were not there, something is happening and they can't continue to bury their heads in the sand."