FORMER New England MP Tony Windsor has joined the chorus of outrage over a delay in drought-declaring the region, branding ministerial visits to drought-affected areas “a waste of time”.
Mr Windsor said the impact of the drought had been widespread and well-documented for many months and the time for delaying tactics on a cohesive drought policy was over.
“Tell them (the farmers); don’t keep this game going, ‘We’re going to send someone out, and there’ll be some bloke coming up to have a look, and then some minister might arrive and the Prime Minister might arrive and the Queen Mother will probably come back’,” he told ABC Radio yesterday.
“If these people and their departments don’t understand the circumstances of what’s going on in Queensland and parts of NSW, they shouldn’t be in the jobs they’re in.”
It comes as pressure mounts on NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson, who tours the Northern Tablelands today, to officially declare the region “in drought”.
Mr Windsor joins a long line of politicians past and present imploring the government to take swift and significant action to help desperate communities reeling from drought.
Former independent state member Peter Draper said it was obvious the region was being ignored and branded the games being played with drought declaration as “disgraceful”.
“It’s clear the area has been in drought for some time, yet we have to wait for the minister to come down and tour around with the local member for a couple of days,” Mr Draper said.
“It’s reprehensible. People are screaming for help.”
Moree Plains Shire Council mayor Katrina Humphries said the desperation being felt in rural communities was compounded by the fact that their plight was getting little attention or acknowledgment, let alone assistance.
“Where are the greenies and animal libbers? Why are they not out here organising fodder and euthanising starving stock and wildlife?” Cr Humphries said.
“Where is the media and why are they not portraying this disaster for what it is? Is it too confronting for city folk to deal with?
“If that is the case, we’re all in trouble because until the city folk do deal with this issue nothing much is going to happen.
“The government will only ‘get it’ when people start to complain about the confrontational news that needs to be told.”
She said if graziers could look after their core breeding herds they could ride this out, and suggested the government redirect its $20 million federal funding allocated to marriage guidance, or a portion of foreign aid, to drought relief.
“Our graziers don’t need to buy cosmetics or take holidays; they don’t need the NBN rollout; they don’t even need cash: they need water and fodder for their stock and they need the support of Australia emotionally,” she said.