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‘Change the legislation’: Barnaby Joyce hits back at drought action criticism

Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce is defending a push to utilise the government’s water reserves in order to support farmers suffering through severe drought.

Mr Joyce, who’s now special envoy for drought recovery, has flagged the idea of using water from the Commonwealth Environmental Water holder to grow fodder to feed starving stock.

The holder is used to water Australia’s “environmental assets” but Mr Joyce says, considering the drought emergency, some of the resources should be diverted.

The suggestion hasn’t been well received by some, with the former head of the Commonwealth Environment Water Office David Papps telling Fairfax Media it would “absolutely” breach the Water Act.

Mr Joyce tells Ben Fordham a “national emergency requires emergency power”.

“We have a large water resource owned by the government.

“It’s called the Commonwealth Environmental Water holder and it’s used to water environmental assets.

“In a national emergency, which is this drought, surely that water should be used to grow the fodder to keep the cattle alive to keep the cash flow in the town.

“When people say, ‘Oh well, the legislation won’t allow you to do that’.

“Well, change the legislation, that’s what we have a parliament for.”

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The Nationals MP says we’re not facing “just another drought” and we should treat it as if our “nation was at threat” from invasion.

“It’s going to come home to all of us.

“In the end, you’re going to go and buy your vegetables and you’re going to say, ‘By gosh they’re getting very, very dear’.”