We need to see leadership

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

On our front page today we have an unprecedented, impassioned plea for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to show an interest in the issues facing our region.

Community, local government, farming and Indigenous organisations have come together as they try to get the message across to the PM that flawed government policy is having a dramatic impact on this region’s sustainability.

In some ways it is unfathomable that community leaders have to take such drastic action to get attention. However, it may not be the final step.

The frustration in the community has reached such levels there is talk of French-style civil disobedience as a last ditch resort to get the attention of politicians.

The frustration is not surprising. While our food producers remain on zero allocation to produce staple needs for our nation and other people throughout the world, governments permit massive water wastage — an estimated 300,000 megalitres flooding into forests over summer — and use water stored in Hume and Dartmouth Dams to keep South Australia’s lower lakes at maximum height for boating regattas and recreation.

The reason for this madness is simple: There are valuable votes to be won in South Australia, not to mention the political force of ill-informed city-based environmentalists.

Couple this with weak representation from The Nationals, who are supposed to be looking out for the regions but are failing to do so, and we have the situation which is presently unfolding.

It must have been extremely frustrating for Member for Farrer Sussan Ley when she unsuccessfully argued for food producers to have the opportunity to borrow environmental water to grow their crops.

Why wouldn’t Water Minister David Littleproud and his colleagues give this unqualified support? Perhaps it is because they are prepared to see parts of rural Australia sacrificed because they do not want to upset city Coalition colleagues.

On Friday, the Pastoral Times questioned Nationals leader Michael McCormack, asking whether it had abandoned parts of its heartland. Mr McCormack, who not surprisingly rejected this assertion, was also encouraged to visit Deniliquin to see first hand the challenges being faced and discuss what many local people see as obvious and common-sense solutions. Mr McCormack promised to try and include a trip to our region on his busy itinerary.

We believe Mr Morrison and Mr McCormack need to show some political courage and address the poor policy decisions which are adversely affecting our region.

Our nation is suffering because politicians are making decisions based on populist ideals, often ill-informed, instead of accepting the criticism that may come with showing resolve for what might not be popular, but is right.

Civil disobedience should never be an option for making a political point. But we can understand that many people in this region, ignored for so long, see no other choice.

Mr Morrison and Mr McCormack need to take necessary actions to ensure it does not get to that point.