The New England MP defended his called for environmental water from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be used to grow fodder for stock, saying if he had to choose between farmers and the “extreme ends of the environmental movement”, he’d pick farmers every time.
Mr Joyce is prepared for an uphill battle, and expects the new Environment Minister Melissa Price to be hesitant to heed the call.
“However, my job as Special Envoy is to say things not constrained by cabinet solidarity, but to reflect the views that are being brought forward to me,” he said.
“We’re not asking for a complete desertion from the Murray Darling Basin Plan. We don’t want all the water, we want a portion.
“The Commonwealth could realise plenty of water and we would still have lots left.
“This is a national emergency and we need to treat it as such. That action that needs to be taken reflects the intensity of the situation.
BARNABY Joyce’s first suggestion as Special Envoy on drought relief has been slapped down as “ill-informed” and a “kneejerk” reaction.
Mr Joyce did not respond to The Leader’s request for an interview, and ignored the opportunity to provide a response to the criticism.
The New England MP called for environmental water from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be used to grow fodder for stock.
Australian Conservation Foundation campaigns director Paul Sinclair reminded the former deputy prime minister that the Murray-Darling river system was also in drought.
“The last major drought sparked the water reform that led to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan – we should not undo this,” Dr Sinclair said.
“The river system and its wildlife, wetlands and forests need governments to protect its right to a share of available water to survive the drought.
“The water clawed back from irrigators with billions of dollars of Australian government money needs to be used for the reasons it was recovered – making sure we all benefit from a healthy river.
“Mr Joyce’s kneejerk and ill-informed reaction risks the health of floodplains, wetlands and wildlife, not to mention the communities downstream that rely on a living river for their livelihoods.”
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young slammed Mr Joyce’s plan, saying he should ask his “corporate irrigator mates” to help drought-affected farmers.
“Barnaby Joyce has used his first day on the job to go back to his old tricks – trying to rip water off of the environment,” Senator Hanson-Young said.