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Bullying accusations a ‘diversion’ from serious water issues

By Rodney Woods

Accusations of bullying in the divisive water debate are nothing more than “a diversion tactic”, according to water lobby group Speak Up.

The group's chair Shelley Scoullar says she has “had enough” of this latest effort by people in authority to avoid tackling serious issues in regional communities.

Mrs Scoullar said claims of bullying and intimidation had been raised at various forums in the past fortnight, including a Senate Estimates hearing when questions were asked of Murray-Darling Basin interim inspector-general Mick Keelty.

His report, on which many struggling food and fibre producers are pinning their last hopes, is due out at the end of March.

“We are at the point where we have limited trust in anyone who is being paid by government,” Mrs Scoullar said.

“While there are solutions to our present crisis which could help, farmers and their communities continue being ignored or opposed by some with self-interest and no desire to support those in desperate need.

“When something is politically difficult we generally find the easy option is taken.

“I find it hard to believe Mr Keelty will do anything different to other bureaucrats.

“To make matters worse, I believe he has been getting advice from the MDBA (Murray-Darling Basin Authority).

“If that is the case and he accepts it, we’ll get nothing again.”

Mrs Scoullar said the intimidation and bullying claims at the hearing suggested the government was looking for a distraction.

“Those advocating for change are frustrated, but they are not bullies,” she said.

“We have dedicated and intelligent people who, as volunteers, do huge hours of research and present evidence and facts to governments and their representatives.

“But they don’t want to listen.”

“I believe there has been a consolidated effort to allow the NSW Murray to be the sacrificial lamb for this political plan, because nothing changes despite all the evidence, the indisputable facts and presenting solutions (which would not disadvantage any region over another, as has been claimed).”