One Nation senator impresses irrigators

By Sophie Baldwin

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts toured the region last week as part of a Murray-Darling Basin fact finding mission, which has left him in no doubt basin communities are facing a national emergency.

Senator Roberts visited a small group of business owners and concerned community members at the dairy farm of Rick and Tina Wishart at Cohuna, and a group of southern Riverina irrigators at Jodie and David Edgar's property at Womboota.

He said the state of rural communities was desperate and urgent action was required.

“We have been here to develop an overall understanding so we can work on solutions to offer immediate short-term relief, as well as long-term options.

“This visit isn't about us talking, it is about us listening to the community."

Senator Roberts said the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was flawed and it was impossible to implement a flawed plan.

“The basin plan is based on opinion, belief and myths and it is killing communities,” he said.

Mr Wishart said the visit provided his wife Tina and daughters Emmalea, Kaitlyn and April with some much-needed hope.

“It is nice to think someone is prepared to fight for us and it certainly gives us some hope because there is no back-up now and we are just down to skin and bone,” Mr Wishart said.

“He didn't promise anything but he listened to what we had to say and he certainly impressed us.”

Southern Riverina irrigator Ian Starritt said it was nice to talk to a grassroots politician who wasn't offering a range of "furphy" solutions.

“We are desperate for a resolution,” Mr Starritt said.

“We lost the opportunity of a great spring this year because we had no allocation for the second year in a row, and we are at the point now where we can't write anything off anymore and something has to change.”

Mr Edgar said he appreciated the fact Senator Roberts had taken the time out to travel the length of the basin.

“He isn't relying on paperwork,” Mr Edgar said.

“He is out on the ground talking to people and he actually surprised me with his knowledge; he is a glimmer of hope and a much-needed voice of reason.”