Yes, I was being deliberately provocative yesterday when I suggested that we can’t drought proof Australia, but at least we can try to idiot proof public policy.
But it prompted some damned good feedback on drought policy. This sympathetic statement is a good starting point: “During this whole drought discussion I have not heard one whinging farmer. However we have seen shock jocks and pollies from all sides trying to take the high ground.”
“Australia has never had a reasonable or sustainable model for dealing with the extreme nature of the weather in the farming areas of Australia,” a subscriber says. “As most of the decisions about the land are made by urban politicians there is no conceptual notion of what this Management of Farming policy should or could be. The haphazard nature of the drought alleviation strategies is continuing evidence that there is no underlying plan for dealing with the effects of fluctuations of climate and until there is, farming will send a significant number of farmers broke and the Australian economy in this area will be less than it should be.”
What’s wrong with what we currently do? It’s the same old same old – policies captured by special interest groups, according to one reader: “It is high time the problems of drought and other related matters that impact so heavily on the farming community and tax payers in general was put in proper perspective. In many instances, without subsidies, many farms are not viable. This is obvious to all but the farmers concerned and the Nationals. The Nationals have been instrumental in the wasting of millions of tax payer dollars over many years to curry favour with their constituents. In this farce they have been aided and abetted by the Liberal Party, who should hide their face in shame. The Liberal Party, after July 1, are in a position to deal with this matter properly. Will they? I’m an optimist!”
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Another subscriber writes about how we’ve built on some of our best farming land around Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide – but avoids making the joke about Canberra being a waste of good sheep country – and two other readers share their debate over my comments:
“You must have been having a bad day yesterday – I just read the article and didn’t find it anywhere near as anti-farmer as some of the things that have been published in the Herald recently. His point, as I see it, is that some farming is carried out on land that is not climatically suited to sustainable farming. Therefore, farming should not be carried out on this land, or the land should be farmed in a less-intensive way.
His issue with subsidies then is that farmers should not be receiving funds to support economically and ecologically unsustainable practices, and that any other business that tried to operate in this manner would be driven out by market forces…
“Where his argument falls down is that he makes blanket statements, and lumps well operated farms that are merely struggling with drought conditions (and do justify assistance to ensure continuity of management) in with poorly managed farms or those farms that shouldn’t be there in the first place… His focus should therefore be on the process by which assistance is determined – ensure that the government is supporting going concerns, rather than propping up unviable farms…
“In his defence, well-run farms should be profitable, and should have the capability to manage the various climatic and economic cycles. However, as this drought has been prolonged, it has created special circumstances that have triggered the media and political attention. Further, if current weather patterns are a portent of things to come, then sheltering farms from making the changes needed to operate in this environment is possibly a short-sighted move.”
I’m happy to be corrected – and happy to cop this slap, too: “I hope you will do a second list of benefits available to city dwellers which are not available to country folk. Start with things like accessible childcare, medical care and schools – the things our taxes are used to fund – provided you lives in the city, of course.”