WE SAY: Water Minister shouldn’t be no-show at crucial water meeting

Former Water, now Infrastructure Minister Barnaby Joyce.

Former Water, now Infrastructure Minister Barnaby Joyce.

What’s more important: a meeting to discuss the controversial issue of environmental water flows in the Murray Darling Basin, or a cabinet reshuffle?

Just an hour after the ministerial council meeting he was due to attend had finished, he was promoted to the Infrastructure portfolio.

It makes sense that Mr Joyce may not have been the most appropriate person to chair that meeting, as he would have known the issues raised would no longer be his responsibility.

But the reason we were given was dramas with his plane.

Fairfax Media has no evidence to dispute South Australian MP Ian Hunter’s comment that there was “a problem with the plane, an emergency situation (Monday) night”, but it’s certainly convenient.

Even Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville pointed to the “unfortunate” timing of the cabinet reshuffle when discussing Mr Joyce’s absence.

The problem is the federal government decided proper representation at the Murray Darling Basin meeting was something that could be sacrificed.

By all reports, Senator Anne Ruston – the Assist Agriculture Minister – did a good job chairing the meeting.

But nothing can replace having the federal minister in charge listening to the issues first-hand. 

The state ministers even went out of their way to make that happen, rescheduling the meeting until after Mr Joyce won the New England by-election.

They were not shown the same courtesy.

“I am a little disappointed because we’ve been trying to have this meeting for quite a while then unfortunately we do eventually get it and we waited for a by-election and he doesn’t come,” Ms Neville said.

“I don’t think it would have made any difference to the outcome we saw today, but these are very serious issues and the Commonwealth is a key partner and player in this and we do need the federal water minister at the table.”

Queensland MP David Littleproud has been named the new Water Minister so let’s hope he can get acquainted with the Murray Darling Basin quickly. You’re always welcome to visit the Border to experience this region first-hand Mr Littleproud.