Good start but jury still out

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - Ag Life -

Hands up if you’d heard of David Lit­tleproud be­fore the lat­est live-sheep ex­port disas­ter.

Just as I thought. Un­less you man­aged to catch a glimpse of or caught up with him while he was on a visit to Wim­mera Ma­chin­ery Field Days, most of you hadn’t.

If you still don’t know who he is, he’s the Fed­eral Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture AND Water Re­sources.

The AND is be­cause that’s just as im­por­tant for Vic­to­rian agri­cul­ture be­cause it means he’s the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Plan.

I have to ad­mit be­fore he took over the port­fo­lio from Barn­aby Joyce, I’d never clapped eyes on him ei­ther.

Hav­ing had the plea­sure of meet­ing the man, he seems de­ter­mined if not a lit­tle bit ‘try hard’, ami­able, up for a joke and not fright­ened to let go the odd swear word.

He re­minds me of the boy at school that was des­tined to be a pre­fect: al­ways well pre­sented, al­ways want­ing to be a ‘mate’ even if that meant do­ing the odd thing that didn’t sit com­fort­ably with him, al­ways want­ing to please. So the re­port card so far? His first big test was the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Plan in the new year.

His pre­de­ces­sor Mr Joyce had ac­cused the ABC of be­ing part of a plan for tak­ing more water off ir­ri­ga­tors when Four Cor­ners ex­posed water theft in NSW and Queens­land.

Shoot­ing the mes­sen­ger is never good pol­i­tics.

Ir­ri­ga­tors on the Mur­ray lost re­spect for Mr Joyce, sus­pect­ing him of favour­ing his Queens­land con­stituents and busi­ness mates.

Mr Lit­tleproud’s ap­proach from the start has been quite to the con­trary: he said he’s hear­ing the pain the MDBP has brought to farm­ers – he’s had them cry on his shoul­der – but he’s de­ter­mined hav­ing got this far, to see it through with them. Well played me­thinks.

Then the bolt from the blue: an­other hor­rific ex­pose of the live-an­i­mal trade by An­i­mals Aus­tralia. Doesn’t come much tougher po­lit­i­cally than that.

Within an in­stant, live­stock farm­ers were col­lec­tively hold­ing their breath.

Would he fol­low La­bor’s ex­am­ple when the live-cat­tle cru­elty in In­done­sia was ex­posed five years ago and ban the trade?

Would he take Mr Joyce’s ap­proach and shoot the mes­sen­ger by per­haps ac­cus­ing the me­dia of bias and a beat up?

It was in­stead a calm, more con­sid­ered ap­proach. A short, sharp re­view to see how this ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent could be avoided.

And with just a dash of, ‘don’t mess with me’, when Mr Lit­tleproud said what he saw was, ‘bull­dust’.

It could be tempt­ing to give him 10 out of 10 for try­ing, but then he just might get too big for his boots, and in­deed ar­guably al­ready has by putting his hand up to take over from Mr Joyce as leader of the Na­tion­als.

Steady there lit­tle sol­dier! Way too green be­hind the ears hav­ing only been elected in 2016. So let’s play it safe and give him a 7 out of 10 shall we?

Here’s hop­ing his hon­ey­moon pe­riod morphs into a long and happy po­lit­i­cal mar­riage. Oh hang on, he’s a Queens­lan­der. He can’t help it but we’d bet­ter make that a 6.5 out of 10.

• Libby Price presents ra­dio sta­tion 3WM’S Coun­try To­day seg­ment.

SPE­CIAL GUEST: Fed­eral Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Water Re­sources David Lit­tleproud at the Wim­mera Ma­chin­ery Field Days in March.

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