News

Missed opportunity

By James Bennett

The drums are starting to beat a little louder on water policy in Canberra, and maybe we should look past the actual reason the premier visited the Goulburn Valley.

Political reporter James Bennett provides his analysis on what impact politics had on our region in the past week.

Golden chance missed

On Thursday morning, State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed called for the Nationals to dump Federal Water Minister David Littleproud and replace him with the Member for Nicholls Damian Drum.

With a full day in Canberra before the next sitting day next month, Labor could have pressured the government to sack Mr Littleproud.

They were nowhere to be seen or heard on Ms Sheed's comments.

The best Labor could muster was from the Federal Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon, who raised a matter of public importance attacking the Morrison Government and Mr Littleproud, saying they have failed regional Australia.

Suzanna Sheed stood with local irrigators and farmers calling for federal Water Resource Minister David Littleproud to be sacked and replaced by the Member for Nicholls Damian Drum. Picture: Rodney Braithwaite

Mr Drum also did not speak in parliament about Ms Sheed's comments. Understandably so, since it would draw unwanted attention.

When pressed by the Country News about Ms Sheed's comments, he went on the attack against the state independent, but did not actually offer any support for Mr Littleproud.

The timing of Ms Sheed's call came too late in the week for Labor too jump on board, but it would have been foolish to make her opinion known on Wednesday.

As that would have meant upstaging a visit from the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews.

But as you will read further on, he probably would have preferred Ms Sheed overshadowing his visit.

It seems nobody got the memo and Mr Littleproud dodged a damaging bullet.

Basin plan hits Canberra

More discussion about the impact of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, drought and water policy is creeping into parliament.

There are the usual scripted fluffy questions from backbenchers asking the relevant minister ''to explain in detail the positive impact what this government is doing with regards to everything we're doing'', but outside of question time is when a parliamentarian is allowed more freedom.

Even Labor has started to hold the government to more account.

Damian Drum was rather quiet this week in Canberra speaking about the drought and the Live Animal Exports Bill, but also spoke about the basin plan.

Mr Drum said if the basin plan was implemented properly, it could have positive impacts.

“A healthy Murray-Darling Basin is one that balances environmental objectives with the social and economic objectives of a community. But, right now, that social and economic balance isn't being experienced at all,” Mr Drum said.

“To date, more than 2100gl of the 2750 target set out in the basin plan have been returned to the environment.

“So far, Victoria has done the bulk of the heavy lifting, with 810gl of that water being recovered from Victorian irrigators; that's equivalent to the water use of about 4000 average-sized Victorian dairy farms.

“On top of this we have the inter-valley water trade, which is pushing the water market over $800 a megalitre.”

Pauline Hanson's One Nation is starting to ramp up its pressure on the government with its handling of the basin plan.

Queensland Senator Malcolm Roberts asked Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie if she supported his statement in a letter he wrote to Mr Littleproud "to release 200gl of water from the Commonwealth environmental water reserves currently being held in Hume and Dartmouth dams".

He said releasing the water would allow additional allocations along the Murray River and benefit northern Victoria and southern NSW irrigators.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts at a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) 

Senator McKenzie did not answer his question directly, instead taking the safe road to address the harsh impacts of the drought and direct his questions towards Environment Minister Sussan Ley, as it is not part of her portfolio.

This prompted the One Nation member to ask his question again, twice. Although still not directly answering his question about releasing the water in the damns, she said she does support more water for farmers and irrigators.

Shepparton visit quite timely

Shepparton and the Goulburn Valley can be thankful it received the huge funding boost from the Victorian Government during the Premier's visit on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, there was a little smoke 'n' mirrors about the timing of the visit.

Dan "The Man" Andrews just received a healthy pay rise and is the second highest paid politician in the country. No guess who is paid the most.

The Victorian Premier earns more than federal Labor and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

So why visit Shepparton on the day this was announced? Goulburn Valley media does not focus on every state or federal issues unless there is a local angle.

Mr Andrews announcing millions of dollars for GV Health certainly grabs the headlines at the regional level knowing the media won't press him as much than our metropolitan journalists about his pay rise.

Why not enjoy the comfort of a smaller media conference that will ask positive questions about GV Health rather than the city journalists - particularly the Murdochs - badgering him about his pay.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews enjoyed his peaceful visit to Shepparton on Wednesday. Picture Tara Whitsed.

But it does not stop there. The media were not welcome to a visit at Shepparton High School - probably just in case he could not answer questions about the super school.

And they did not want the media at the official opening of the Tatura ambulance station considering he has not had an easy time with emergency services since coming into power in 2014.

Thankfully, Mr Andrews was forced to answer questions about the super school and his pay rise.