Drought is a fact of life in Australia.
A century and a half ago my great, great grandfather, the
Surveyor-General for the Colony of South Australia, drew what is known
as Goyder’s Line of Rainfall across the state, defining the arable
areas. It’s still considered reliable today.

All of which makes
the comments on the current drought by the former head of the CSIRO’s
land and water division, John Williams, in The Age today, more interesting.

Williams criticised government drought policy yesterday – but also added, according to The Age,
that “Australians had forgotten the variability of the nation’s climate
and started farming land that previous generations would not have
farmed. Unsustainable areas included parts of the Mallee across
Victoria, NSW and South Australia; SA’s Eyre Peninsula; and some parts
of western NSW and central Queensland.”

Despite what Alan Jones
might say, we can’t drought proof Australia. What we can do is try to
idiot proof public policy – and spend public money in the way that
delivers the best possible outcomes.

I can feel another Crikey
list coming on. What subsidies are available to farmers that are
unavailable to normal businesses? Submissions to [email protected].