Sheed calls for water minister to be sacked

By Geoff Adams

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed is calling on the Federal Government to sack David Littleproud as the minister for water and replace him with Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum.

Flanked by 20 farmers, irrigators and business people on the banks of the Goulburn River, Ms Sheed said Mr Littleproud refused to listen to the community in the southern basin.

"For too long we've had water ministers from the northern region representing their own electorates, seeing water policies implemented into the southern basin that causes great damage to our communities" Ms Sheed said.

Ms Sheed said Mr Drum had a better grasp of the issue because of his dairy farming background.

She said Mr Drum had lived in the area and understood the socio-economic issues."There's been too much partisanship and there needs to be a situation where balance is brought back into the plan,” Ms Sheed said.

In response, Mr Drum accused Ms Sheed of "jumping into bed with (Victorian) Labor".

“Last week she was calling for me to be independent and she was calling for something else the week before,” he said.

“Suzanna Sheed shouldn’t worry about federal issues and understand that 90 per cent of water policy are state issues.

“If she’s worried about water, she should introduce a bill about speculators in the market as she has control of this as a member of parliament.”

Ms Sheed believes there should be a new investigation into why so much water is being sent to sustain the Lower Lakes in South Australia.

Palaeoecologist, Professor Peter Gell, has released a peer-reviewed report showing the Lower Lakes were not always freshwater.

Ms Sheed said she had no confidence in the Federal Government and had called on the Victorian Government to investigate the Lower Lakes.

"Littleproud not wanting to investigate this is the biggest disgrace of all. It's time we got some balance back into the Murray-Darling Basin, that the issues here in the southern region are looked at,” she said.

Ms Sheed said the reports showed a decline in milk production, local families leaving and businesses closing down, including the Tongala Nestle milk factory.

Asked if this was a result of the drought, Ms Sheed said rain would not fix the problem and the 2016 floods made little difference.

"These communities are bleeding, it's not good enough the Federal Government is letting it happen,” she said.

Asked about the allegations of favouritism, Mr Littleproud said the basin plan had been formed in agreement with all basin states, including Victoria, which prevented the plan favouring one state over another.

“We have worked closely with the states to improve compliance in the northern basin including the appointment of Mick Keelty as Northern Basin Commissioner last year,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Professor Gell’s work is being reviewed by an independent scientific panel and the findings will be released publicly.

“All basin governments, including Victoria, have agreed to the socio-economic neutrality test, which stops any recovery of additional water going ahead unless it demonstrates it will in no way hurt Basin communities,'' Mr Littleproud said.