The NSW Drought Petition had both sides of politics in a stir when it was debated in state parliament on Thursday.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson jumped in to speak about the petition as soon as it was brought up, taking the honour away from Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison who was supposed to speak first.
Mr Anderson said the petition, which was started by the Mercury and supported by Fairfax Media mastheads across NSW – was “playing politics”.
“This petition is only playing politics, misrepresenting the approach of the NSW government to this very important issue and playing down the support and assistance measures available to our primary producers,” he said.
His colleague – Myall Lakes MP Stephen Bromhead, said the Labor party was “playing politics with something so important to rural and regional NSW” and accused Ms Aitchison of not doing any research on the topic.
Cessnock MP Clayton Barr challenged their account of the government’s actions on drought this year.
“If the job’s already being done and being done well no-one will sign the petition so to say that the petition was pointless or that people don’t know what’s going on or all those people out there don’t understand what they’re doing is essentially to say that 10,000 people out there – basically this government and the two speakers we’ve already had have basically called those 10,000 people out there silly,” he said.
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison noted that farmers were still struggling with water shortages and some had been forced to sell all of their breeding cattle.
She ended up in a slinging match with Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen as the debate ended. He called out across the chamber to state her credentials around drought and farming.
“There are people out there who cannot put any water on their vegetables that they are growing for market, there are people going broke, there are people who don’t even have water to drink,” she said.
“I have got people in my community who have had to sell the last of their breeding stock what is going to happen to them?”
Mr Bromhead and Mr Anderson reiterated the government’s drought support measures which included a $500 million emergency relief package that was announced in late July – almost two months after the NSW Drought Petition was launched.