The end of the world is nigh, the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday. Or something like that, anyway. “We are about to experience the convergence of three of the great issues confronting humanity,” Ian Dunlop wrote. “Climate change, the peaking of oil supply and water shortage are coming together in a manner which will profoundly alter our way of life, our institutions and our ability to prosper on this planet.”

Naturally, the Nationals see this as a great opportunity for handouts. Ethanol funds and drought relief all round.

ABC Radio covered the mooing and baaing of Coalition country folk on The World Today:

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Nationals Senator Ron Boswell has his fingers crossed.

RON BOSWELL: I don’t know. I really…

REPORTER: Do you think it’s global warming?

RON BOSWELL: I don’t know whether it’s global warming, or we’re just going through a period of sustained drought and it’ll right itself. I really don’t know. I hope that’s the case.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: But Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan is convinced global warming is a fact.

BILL HEFFERNAN: When you see your ice caps melting, when you see the changing weather patterns, the drift of the weather southwards, if you’re not the world’s greatest sceptic, then you have to believe your advice and your science, and I do.

And I think we’ve got to turn adversity into opportunity in Australia, pick up what that all means to Australia, the geography of Australia. It means, from my interpretation of the sciences, it’s going to get drier in the south, wetter in the north. I think we’ve got to create a new agricultural frontier in the north.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: How soon?

BILL HEFFERNAN: I’d have been very pleased if this afternoon the Prime Minister announced the Minister for Northern Development Agriculture. I don’t know how soon. All I know is it will be a huge task, much bigger than the Snowy in vision…

It would be wonderful to know where the Senator who stopped the sale of the Snowy thinks the funding for a similar scheme might come from. No doubt Bob Katter, Alan Jones and the Lyndon LaRouche Fan Club are dusting down the blueprints of the Bradfield Scheme and calling for a Broome to Ballarat pipeline.

But they might like to read the words of David Bassanese from the Weekend Fin:

We… need a sense of perspective: Australia no longer rides on the sheep’s back. The rural sector now accounts for less than 3% of the national economy, around 12% of total exports, and 3.5% of total employment.

If the agrarian socialists are such a small part of the economy, they don’t need too much money.

Peter Fray

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