Thousands descend on Canberra for Can the Plan protest rally

By Sophie Baldwin

Thousands of men, women and children converged on Canberra yesterday in a mass rally of irrigators and rural people calling on the Federal Government to stop the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Some 200 trucks and tractors circled Parliament House tooting their horns in front of the cheering crowd of farmers, business owners and concerned community members who made the trip from across the basin.

It was a spectacle to behold as they marched their way to the front doors of Parliament House demanding Environment Minister Sussan Ley and Water Minister David Littleproud face the crowd.

Benjeroop farmer Lindsay Schultz said the rally was a success and organisers had done a mighty job.

Mr Schultz left Sunday morning with his truck and a dozen others from Benjeroop, where he spent the night in a caravan park.

“If we can't get the message through today, then what else do we have to do?" Mr Schultz said.

Protesters assembled on the forecourt of Parliament House yesterday.

Wendy Brooks from Barooga said she wanted her voice heard because it had been difficult for farmers to get their point across.

“It's been very successful, the number of trucks has been amazing,” Ms Brooks said.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed, One Nation's Pauline Hanson, Senator Malcolm Roberts and Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter addressed the crowd, with all treated to loud cheers of appreciation.

Senator Roberts gave a rousing speech supporting the farming community.

“They thought I was a nobody and they looked down their nose at me, but this little red head is not going anywhere,” an emotional Ms Hanson said.

“There is lot of bloody idiots in this place and a lot of ‘yes’ people who don't have the guts to stand up for their people, but I am here and I will not turn my back on the farming community.”

Many families were among the protesters assembled outside Parliament House.

While the protesters were making their point in Canberra, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority was pointing to the drought as the cause of the hardship the irrigators were suffering and the National Irrigators Council was urging governments not to ditch the plan.

National Irrigators Council chief executive Steve Whan warned that ending the plan could create greater distress for irrigators and would not solve the problems.

“The strong view of NIC members is that the flaws and challenges that remain in implementing the basin plan are best addressed by acting on the recommendations of this year’s Productivity Commission review,” he said.

“It offers a way forward on some of the very difficult issues, including many highlighted this week by protests, and we urge basin governments to act on those recommendations.

“I recognise that many of the groups protesting are not saying there should be no plan for the Murray-Darling Basin. To be clear, we agree with many of their concerns.

“Where we differ is on how to get a positive results and avoid even worse outcomes.

“It is not just the basin plan causing the issues and canning it would not solve them.”