The water resources part of David Littleproud’s new portfolio responsibilities, announced on Tuesday afternoon by Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, have as important a place in his mind as his agricultural duties.
The 41-year-old Member for Maranoa, a first-term backbencher until the announcement, said he had big shoes to fill in taking over the Agriculture and Water Resources ministry from his leader and deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, and said it was important to get the Northern Basin review agreed upon for the future of the communities that were relying on water from the Murray-Darling Basin.
“It has bipartisan support from all states and I’ll be working to ensure the umpire’s decision is respected in this,” he said.
While building new dam infrastructure is overseen by Mr Joyce as the new Infrastructure Minister, he said the Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry had already rung to put the case for the Rookwood Dam.
Mr Littleproud’s appointment is seen as a big promotion for the Queensland National and he himself said he was “a bit shocked” by it.
“I never had any expectations of this, but I’m looking forward to building on what Barnaby has already done in the portfolio.
“They are certainly big shoes to fill.”
When questioned about the loss of Victorian Nationals MP, Darren Chester, from cabinet, and the amount of Queensland representation in cabinet ranks, Mr Littleproud said he didn’t get caught up in the machinations.
“I didn’t seek this. I’ve simply focused on my job of representing the people of Maranoa.
“If you seek honours you lose focus on what you’re there for.”
Among the foundations laid by Mr Joyce that Mr Littleproud wants to build on are the free trade agreements negotiated in recent years.
He said Australia produced enough food for 75 million people and so market access was a must as an outlet for the country’s primary producers seeking the best prices for their goods.
The positioning of the Inland Rail project has been a topic close to Mr Littleproud’s heart, who recently pressed then-Infrastructure Minister, Darren Chester, on behalf of Darling Downs landholders, to explain how the controversial infrastructure could be built across prime agricultural land without impacting flood patterns or unduly impacting farming operations.
“All credit to Darren for listening to us and putting the mechanisms in place, via a study.
“My opinion is, let science determine the best corridor, so now we have to make sure the best engineering solution is in place and the process is transparent.”
Most people look forward to kicking back with a good book over the Christmas break but Mr Littleproud expected most of his time would be taken up in familiarising himself with portfolio paperwork.
Agricultural organisations have lost no time in congratulating Mr Littleproud on his ministerial elevation, first among them the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, who said he had an extensive knowledge of the wine industry from his close association with growers and producers in his own electorate that includes the Granite Belt region.
“Mr Littleproud has also been an effective and genuine backer of the industry on national issues,” WFA CEO, Tony Battaglene, said.
Cattle Council of Australia president, Howard Smith, said his group was looking forward to building a strong working relationship with the new minister to represent grassfed beef producers at the federal level.
“The Cattle Council would like to acknowledge the contribution made by the outgoing Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce, and congratulate him on his new role as Minister for Infrastructure and Transport.”
Cotton Australia has also welcomed Mr Littleproud’s appointment, saying he was from a rural Queensland electorate and would be a strong advocate for farmers and people in the bush.
"The cotton industry enjoyed a good working relationship with Mr Joyce, and we look forward to continuing that relationship with Mr Littleproud,” Cotton Australia general manager, Michael Murray, said.
QFF president, Stuart Armitage, said it was great to see a Queenslander, particularly a member in a very important agricultural region such as Maranoa, elevated to control the federal Agriculture and Water portfolios.
“Representing an agricultural rich region such as Maranoa that stretches from Warwick in the south, Winton in the north and Birdsville in the west, David will bring firsthand knowledge and experiences about what Queensland farmers and regional communities need,” he said. “The QFF and industry members look forward to the constructive relationship we experienced with the deputy Prime Minister and his office continuing with David Littleproud at the helm.”