Handballing from the PM

By Southern Riverina News

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has refused to meet a local delegation to discuss the water crisis.

The PM has said ‘‘no’’ to a desperate plea from 15 community groups for a meeting to try and resolve critical issues facing the region. It was featured in the Southern Riverina News last week and generated other media interest.

Local farmers have threatened a French-style revolt if the Prime Minister refused to intervene, and the Southern Riverina News believes there is growing momentum for a convoy that would gridlock Canberra.

Member for Farrer Sussan Ley has tried to facilitate a local delegation with Mr Morrison, but he has refused his colleague’s request. This would most likely have involved a local group going to Canberra, rather than a visit to the region from Mr Morrison.

But Ms Ley has indicated she will not give up.

‘‘The Speak Up deadline for an answer was April 2 and it is absolutely proper he would initially refer the matter to the minister in charge of agriculture and water,’’ Ms Ley said.

‘‘The Prime Minister’s schedule is planned months in advance and I am keen that he comes to our region before the election. If and when that occurs I am sure he will agree to a meeting.’’

When asked about a visit to the region during a doorstop interview with Ms Ley last week, Mr Morrison said he would “very much like to do that”. He said it had been “a pretty busy two weeks (and) we are going back into Parliament for the next fortnight”.

In the official response sent yesterday to Speak Up, Mr Morrison said the talks should take place with Water Minister David Littleproud and Murray-Darling Basin Authority chief executive Phillip Glyde.

Speak Up chair Shelley Scoullar, who instigated the letter asking for a meeting with the PM, said words could not describe her frustration and disappointment.

“We received a brief response yesterday thanking us for our letter and advising that Mr Littleproud “would be better placed to take the meeting” and it was suggested Mr Glyde should also attend.

“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.

“Mr Littleproud is focused on helping the Northern Basin, which is his home turf. He does not understand our issues, and hasn’t shown any desire to learn about them and fix them.

“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.

“If it was any different, Mr Glyde and his colleagues would be demanding action to stop water being wasted as it floods our forests because the flows being demanded under the Basin Plan simply will not fit down the system, while at the same time our food producers have a zero allocation.

“They don’t want solutions; they only want to deliver a plan that is not working for our economies, not working for the environment and not working for our communities.

“These are the messages we were hoping to deliver to Mr Morrison.”

Mrs Scoullar added it was extremely disappointing when 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 time 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’s response sends a clear message that the Coalition no longer cares about communities in southern New South Wales and northern Victoria. They are prepared to shut down the most efficient irrigation system in the world, because there are too many politically sensitive challenges with the alternative.

“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.”