‘She was going to deck him’: 21yo farmer steals show
It was an emotional episode of Q&A as struggling farmers and country locals fighting through drought explained how years of rain had broken their rural towns and hearts.
But it was a 21-year-old grazier, from the NSW township of Menindee, that made the strongest impact, unafraid of going head-to-head with the panel's politicians and even calling for a royal commission into the handling of the Murray Darling Basin - which earnt her a mountain of applause.
Despite being seated next to David Littleproud, the federal minister for water resources and drought, 21-year-old Kate McBride wasn't fazed.
Throughout the hour-long show, Ms McBride shot a handful of furious looks at Mr Littleproud as he repeatedly defended claims the government mismanaged water and was not supporting farmers.
At one point, as Mr Littleproud and Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon argued across the panel, Ms McBride was asked what she thought of the two politicians' behaviour.
"As a young farmer, I'm 21 years old, where is my future in all this? I spoke to people this week saying there were people in their communities taking kids out of boarding school because they can't afford it anymore," she said.
"That's destroying their future. But they get dragged back to a property where they can't see a future themselves. What are we doing for these kids? They come home and there's nothing for them there.
"What are we doing and how are we helping these kids?"
Ms McBride's comment was in response to a heartbreaking question asked by the principal of a school in Trundle, a rural town in western NSW, who spoke of the impact it had had on kids in his region.
"My kids are living a crisis the situation every day," John Southern, the principal of Trundle Central School, said.
"I've got kids that are going out to their farms and they don't know what Dad will do tomorrow. Whether they'll be there next week or somebody will foreclose on their farm. "They're saying it's too tough. I don't want to go on this farm anymore. And I've got people telling me they're doing all this stuff to help my community and my kids out here and I've got to say, mate, I haven't seen what you're telling me that's happening out there.
"I haven't seen the grassroots stuff to come and grab my kids and pull them up and say, 'It's OK. We're going to get through this.' Who is saying that to us?"
The community of Trundle in western NSW are disillusioned about the speed and targeting of aid. School principal John Southon asks - “why is this nation still so appallingly unprepared?” #QandA pic.twitter.com/s8R6Amdp7B— ABC Q&A (@QandA) October 28, 2019
In another fiery exchange between Mr Littleproud and Ms McBride, the 21-year-old farmer told the minister he was telling her community in Menindee to "sit at the end of the river and die".
"You look at the people in the Lower Darling but we have a 1,400km stretch that is bone dry," Ms McBride said.
"The lowest ever inflows into Menindee Lakes and that's not just because of drought. Point the finger at mismanagement and overextraction. How can you say to those people, and myself included that live along there, 'we're not going to put any more water back in the river from buybacks. You guys have to sit at the end of the river and die'. That's what you're telling us right now."
In another question put to the panel, indigenous leader Badger Bates from Wilcannia questioned why the river was dry.
"The first thing is it has to rain. We have a serious supply issue," Mr Littleproud said.
"I'm sorry. I can't make it rain. And the only thing that will get the water running into those rivers is stuff from the sky. That is a serious, serious issue that we've got. Until we fix the supply, there are going to be constraints on that. I'm sorry. I can't lie to you."
But Ms McBride wasn't satisfied with the answer.
"When it does rain, that water is embargoed by the states. So that water can't actually get down to places like Wilcannia. I've been out there and know the people there. The male life expectancy of that town is 37. How are we not fixing those issues?"
Our townships are dying and it's not just recently as well," she continued.
"It's heartbreaking. That's where I was born and brought up. It's my home. Now there's nothing there. You can hardly go into the shops to get the things you need.
"Our towns have been destroyed. This was being destroyed well before this drought hit and that's what's heartbreaking to see that this is so much to do with water management.
Ms McBride was applauded over social media for the way she handled the debate with one commenter even joking he'd fallen in love with the fierce farmer.
Don't tell my wife, but I may be in love with Kate McBride.#qanda— Dave Donovan (@davrosz) October 28, 2019
After watching that #QandA I think Kate McBride would be a formidable independent.— Lawrence Champness (@champy) October 28, 2019
I thought Kate McBride was going to deck Littleproud.— 💧 Allan Seymour 💧 (@AllanSeymour1) October 28, 2019
She was passionate, determined & forceful - a hope for the future!
#QandA The best, most honest people on this panel are Maryanne Slattery and Kate McBride.— Lady Fiona (@Ozecrivaine) October 28, 2019
Farmers can’t afford to buy more water. This programme allowed the politicians to yammer on incessantly. Congrats to Kate McBride, a young woman of rural background that has better grip on reality than the politicians 💪 :) 2/2— Deb Downes (@IGsAreGR8) October 28, 2019