We want solutions, not political games
August 29, 2018
A group that wants to see rural communities protected has slammed the politicisation of the current drought.
It has called for politicians and lobby groups to stop trying to score political points with their comments about potential drought solutions.
The call follows the response to suggestions that more of the huge quantities of water being stored in dams could be made available for some farmers to grow fodder for their drought-stricken colleagues.
This concept was unanimously supported by nearly 600 farmers and community members who packed the local RSL Club auditorium in the NSW Murray town on Deniliquin on Monday (August 27).
It was consequently supported by new drought envoy Barnaby Joyce, who suggested water being held for future environmental flows could be ‘borrowed’ to grow and help replenish fodder supplies.
This concept was quickly slammed by some politicians and environmental lobby groups.
Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said she did not believe those who were so quick to oppose the ‘borrow’ suggestion had a full understanding of what it involved, or the fact it would have no impact on the amount of water available for the environment.
“We presently have huge amounts of water in storage which will be used for future flows. There is also a significant amount of environmental water that has been ‘carried over’ from previous years.
“There has never been any intention to ‘give’ any of that water to farmers. The proposal was to allow a small amount to be ‘borrowed’ so dying winter crops can be saved, and fodder grown to boost local supplies and hopefully have some available for drought-stricken farmers in other areas.
“To criticise Barnaby Joyce for supporting this common-sense approach appears to be nothing other than an attempt to score political points.
“We understand politics is a tough game and for various reasons Mr Joyce has been seen by his opponents as an easy target. However, we would appeal to
politicians from all sides at this desperate time to concentrate on solutions,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She acknowledged there were legislative issues with the ‘borrow’ proposal, but pointed out that we are in a time of crisis and we need a strong, bilateral approach to helping fellow Australians get through it. Political bickering will not achieve this.
“The attitude from Labor and the Greens suggests they do not care about drought stricken communities, stock and farmers, or about jobs, the mental health of those faced with drought or about people. This inflexible attitude demonstrates they do not want to be part of the solution.
“Rural communities presently want a ‘can do’ attitude to drought support.
“Supplies of stockfeed from the west are dwindling and we presently have investigations into whether it can be imported.
“All we are asking for is for every possible option to be explored to bring an allocation forward for NSW Murray General Security farmers so that crops can be saved,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She added if the dams were at low levels we could understand their refusal to use scarce water supplies for drought relief, but our biggest storage, Dartmouth Dam, is at 90 per cent capacity and Hume is over half full with substantial inflows expected in coming months, due to well above average snow falls in the catchment.
“So during this critical time, Speak Up calls on all stakeholders to put aside political differences and concentrate on solving the key problem being faced which, in our region, is saving winter crops and growing fodder.
“From a federal perspective that involves finding ways to make water available, and from a state perspective it involves immediately getting the NSW Murray water allocation above zero. Neither should be difficult achieve.
“This is not the time to use struggling Australians for political advantage,” Mrs Scoullar concluded.