Thursday, October 14, 2010

Murray-Darling protests take a strange twist

THE protests against the proposed Murray-Darling water cuts took a bizarre twist yesterday, with one angry farmer throwing a fake horse head at the boss of the basin authority. 
The farmer - whose actions mirrored a scene out of The Godfather - also yelled abuse at Murray-Darling Basin Authority head Mike Taylor, screaming the water cuts would force his family off the land.

Although the protests continued, yesterday marked the first win for farmers with the Federal Government promising a parliamentary inquiry.

In Griffith, Yoogali Hall was nowhere near large enough to hold the more than 7000 angry farmers and residents who turned up for yesterday's public consultation about the scaling back of water rights.

While some cried, children as young as five held up signs saying "Keep my family on the farm", while others wore animal costumes to protest against the plans by the authority. It has proposed an average basin-wide water cut of 27 to 37 per cent - even higher in some regions - which would return between 3000 and 4000 gigalitres of water to the stressed river.

Late yesterday, Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean announced a parliamentary committee, chaired by independent MP Tony Windsor, will inquire into the human cost of the plan.
"People in the Murray Darling Basin communities certainly need to voice their concerns now about the Murray Darling Basin Plan, however there is a long way to go," Mr Windsor said last night.
Mr Crean said the inquiry would examine the impact of the proposed water cutbacks.

"It is likely to have a strong focus on understanding the human impact of any proposed changes," he said.
The inquiry will report in April 2011 - well before the authority releases its final report at the end of next year.

"While of itself it does nothing to ease the distress caused by the savage and unworkable cuts floated in the guide, it does make good on the NFF's call that our politicians have to step in and wrest control from the bureaucrats as we move forward," National Farmers' Federation president David Crombie said.

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