Sheed backs Drum to replace Littleproud as water minister

By Dylan Arvela

Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed has called on the Federal Government to replace David Littleproud as the minister for water. Ms Sheed believes Mr Littleproud is more concerned with those in the Northern Basin than those in the south.

She wants to see Member for Nicholls Damian Drum drafted in to replace Mr Littleproud.

“Ministers who hail from the Northern Basin clearly have no idea how badly the mismanagement of water in their electorates is damaging the Southern Basin,” Ms Sheed said.

“Time and time-again Minister Littleproud has demonstrated he is more concerned with protecting big Northern Basin corporate irrigators – ignoring issues such as alleged corruption and rampant flood plain harvesting which is killing the Darling – than fixing the many problems plaguing the implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

“Damian has recently shown he gets the issues and is calling for change.

“Damian’s recent statements to the Federal Parliament and ABC Radio about the Lower Lakes demonstrate he’s come on board and is prepared to fight on this important issue.”

Last week, both Ms Sheed and Mr Drum declared their support in their respective parliaments for an investigation into claims made by palaeoecologist Professor Peter Gell that South Australia’s Lower Lakes were estuarine prior to human intervention.

This statement comes after over 2000 people rallied in Tocumwal earlier this month with one of the protestors' main demands being the removal of Mr Littleproud as the water minister as well as an investigation into Prof Gell’s claims regarding the Lower Lakes.

“To date Minister Littleproud has shown no appetite for investigating this important issue and indeed continues to insist that the plan should be delivered in full and on time, threatening our farmers with further buybacks, presumably from the southern Basin. Farmers in this region are tired of his rhetoric and lack of action and it is time that he went,” Ms Sheed said.

“I’d like to acknowledge Damian for recognising the issue of South Australia’s Lower Lakes.

“The Federal Government has been tolerating water ministers who put the interests of their own electorates ahead of the national interest and those of the southern Murray-Darling Basin.

“Damian Drum would have the capacity to bring a broader view and some balance back into the very troubling issues that continue to plague the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.”

Mr Drum rejected Ms Sheed’s suggestion he become water minster and believes the comments merely take the focus off the state government who control a majority of water policy.

“Two weeks earlier she came out and said I should be an Independent,” he said.

“It’s poor form, she’s asking me to be disloyal, she’s asking me to undermine my minister, she’s asking me to engage in a whole heap of behaviour which is totally foreign to me and I find it a little bit offensive.

“She should focus on her own issues and that is the state parliament controls 80 per cent of water policy while the Federal Government controls maybe 10 to 20 per cent.

“This is a deflection away from the state government and I think it is pretty poor form.”

The member for Nicholls said he hadn’t spoken with his constituents about the prospect of becoming the water minister in future, adding that holding a ministerial position has its advantages and disadvantages.

“I was briefly an assistant minister under Barnaby Joyce and I have always said that it is a double-edged sword,” Mr Drum said.

“If you start rising up the rungs you get closer to the money and you can provide for your people in a stronger way, however, the role with the hours and demands you really struggle to spend as much time as you like in your own electorate.”