Thousands join rally

By Sophie Baldwin

More than 3000 angry farmers and community members have called for federal Water Minister David Littleproud to be sacked.

They also want the Victorian and NSW Governments to withdraw from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and have called on the Federal Government to immediately pause, review and revise the plan.

At a community protest rally in Tocumwal on Thursday there was particular anger directed at Mr Littleproud, with overwhelming support for a motion that he be immediately removed from his portfolio, as there is ‘‘no confidence or trust in his ability to deliver a Basin Plan on a sound economic, social and environmental footing’’.

The rally called for 1000 gigalitres of conveyance water — which is water allocated against production for losses in transmission — to be re-allocated for productive use in the Southern Basin.

This would provide immediate relief, particularly to farmers on their second successive year of zero allocation.

A huge crowd - far greater than organisers expected - vented their anger at Mr Littleproud and Member for Farrer Sussan Ley, who was described as ‘‘missing in action’’.

There was a call for The Nationals’ federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum, from Shepparton, to quit the party and continue as an independent, thus threatening the government’s majority.

After listening to speeches highlighting the plan’s unfairness and shortcomings, the rally marched over the Murray River, blocking traffic on the busy Newell Highway for more than half an hour.

Rally co-organiser Jan Beer told the crowd the Basin Plan was failing on all counts, including environmental, and it was past time this was acknowledged by the Federal Government and there was a commitment to work with communities to fix the problems it has caused.

‘‘The plan is a failure, but David Littleproud refuses to accept this obvious fact. At the moment he blames the drought, but when it is over he will find another poor excuse. He needs to be replaced by someone who will accept the plan has failed and work with us to fix it,’’ Mrs Beer said.

She told the rally there were immediate, medium and long term solutions which would overcome many of the present issues, but the Federal Government refuses to work with communities to implement these positive steps.

She said as a matter of urgency the government must construct Lock Zero between Wellington and Tailem Bend, which would return 2,500 gigalitres on average to production and guarantee Adelaide’s water supply.

Other solutions include:
● Revising the objectives for the Lower Lakes, Murray Mouth and Coorong to ascertain what can in reality be achieved in an environmentally sustainable way.
● Clarify and re-write the Water Act 2007.
● Undertake complementary measures in the Basin, including cold water pollution, fishways, improved water quality and European carp eradication.
● Build an operational system between tributaries and catchments, so that flows can be coincided. This will take a minimum 4-5 years.
● Install modern and standardised metering, measurement and telemetry Basin-wide.
● Redivert the South East Drains back into the Southern Coorong, which will return 400GL directly into the Coorong, rather than it going out to sea.

‘‘We are desperate to work with governments to develop a Basin Plan that provides the social, economic and environmental balance we were promised,’’ Mrs Beer said.