Government’s Majority Threatened By New Murray Darling Party
Chris Brooks, who led the protests against the Murray Darling Basin Authority last year, has decided to carry on with his campaign by standing candidates in the next federal election. He is establishing a new party that will stand candidates in four seats held by senior government members: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Environment Minister Sussan Ley, Damien Drum, and Dr. Anne Webster.
The Government has a majority of only two seats at the moment so it is vulnerable to a threat in its regional seats. Scott Morrison looks pretty unassailable in most Liberal seats because of his leadership during the virus crisis but the Nationals are not so secure and there is a large measure of discontent among their farming base in the Southern Murray Darling Basin.
Chris Brooks was previously a significant commodities trader and he is wealthy and politically savvy. Flow interviewed him at the time of the demonstration and found that he was very knowledgeable about water matters. At the time he was concerned about the flows that were being released from the Hume Weir which he claimed were being trapped at the Barmah Choke and lost to evaporation. He had meetings with David Littleproud and Mick Keelty and seemed to be satisfied that they were working on a solution.
Since then Mick Keelty has released a report on his investigation into water allocations. This showed two things: that there was 30% less water in the Murray Darling system than there was 20 years ago and that water was over-allocated in the Northern Basin at the expense of the Southern Basin.
Mr. Brooks, who chairs the Southern Basin Irrigators Council, contends that there is still mismanagement of water in the Basin.
"It's the northern [Murray Darling] Basin versus the south," Mr. Brooks told Nine Media yesterday. "The north's winning because of its connection with the Nationals."
Ms. Ley said, "Chris' perspective has always been political so at least that is out in the open".
"I think people are tired of the scatter-gun approach to water politics, where the complexity of an issue is ignored by simply choosing someone to blame," she said.
Mr. McCormack, who holds the seat of Riverina, said anyone was entitled to run for Parliament, "but no-one will deliver for regional communities as the Nationals have done for 100 years".
The Coalition shouldn’t be surprised by this new threat. Chris Brooks has been making electoral threats since before last year’s federal election. In that election Brooks forked out $200,000, to finance a campaign by Albury mayor Kevin Mack against Sussan Ley, which was unsuccessful.
Since the re-election of the Morrison government, there has been rain in the South East of Australia and the river system is flowing strongly but farmers in the Southern Basin have not received an increased allocation of water. If this continues it could become a festering sore and has the potential to cost the Government the next election.