Good start but jury still out
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.