Even worse, when the Nationals’ Damian Drum tried to come to McCormack’s aid, he managed to drive the protesters further into the arms of Roberts.
Insisting the farmers could listen to him and McCormack delivering the facts or cheer for the likes of Roberts for mouthing what everyone wanted to hear, he was left speechless as the farmers set up an almighty roar for Roberts.
McCormack couldn’t do anything right.
Assailed by protesters about the lack of water available to irrigators, he noted that “when it rains, there’s more water”.
A large florid-faced gentleman with a beard and an Australian flag attached to his hat wasn’t about to let this get in the way of his argument.
“That bullshit doesn’t wash with us,” he declared. “We know what rain water is and we know what irrigation water is, and they’re two different things.” The farmers wanted a way to return environmental water to productive use in dire times.
It availed McCormack nothing to parry that “we weren’t in government when they brought in the buy-backs” of environmental water from irrigators.
“You could walk up there [into Parliament House] and tell the Liberal Party, look, we’re crossing the floor,” advised the fellow with the beard and the flag.
“The National Party’s not going to exist after the next election unless you grow some spine and stand up.”
And then he went for McCormack’s tenderest spot.
“Where’s the passion? I haven’t seen any passion from you. You’re like a poker player. Get up there and say ‘this is not f—ing good enough’. Get angry!
“I’ve been pretty passionate,” he muttered, poker faced. “I crossed the floor on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in 2012…”
As if he hadn’t heard a word, the bearded protester went for the jugular.
“Barnaby Joyce was the only one who came out here yesterday; he had some spine…”
Parched days indeed for a Nationals leader in hope of a break in the weather.
Tony Wright is the associate editor and special writer for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.