MICHAEL PASCOE. The key question for governments giving farmers money: is it climate change or weather? (New Daily)

Before again giving billions of dollars to agricultural businesses, our governments should have their feet held to the fire to get a straight answer about that spending in the name of transparency and honesty.

New South Wales on Monday doubled its “emergency drought relief” subsidy for the state’s farmers, making it a neat $1 billion. That’s on top of federal government drought assistance, which I’d tip will soon be increased.

Government support of Australian agricultural businesses is as regular as drought – a sure thing every decade or so. And as certain as creeks running dry, the support coincides with plentiful media coverage of the heartbreaking reality of farming families losing stock and crops.

The stories are the same, drought after drought, just the names of stricken farmers change. If the television cameras are really lucky, they’ll focus in close and find tears on a brave farm woman’s face.

The stories stir a fine community desire to help, some of it personal, most of it via government.

But before handing over significant amounts to subsidise one type of business that’s regularly in trouble (failing video stores didn’t receive government assistance, newspapers don’t get government subsidies), government ministers should be required to explain exactly what is going on.

So, as a public service to help journalists interviewing ministers announcing drought relief, I’ve prepared this handy cheat sheet, starting with the key question about agricultural policy.

  1. Minister, is this drought the result of climate change? (If the answer is “no”, go to question 7.)
  2. If it’s climate change then, not just regular Australian weather, is this aid a waste of money? A mere Band-Aid when there’s a bigger problem?
  3. What exactly is your government’s climate change policy?
  4. Given that we are one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters on a per capita basis, do we need to move to a zero-emissions energy policy to have credibility in encouraging global change?
  5. Would the NSW government’s billion dollars in farm aid be better spent investing in renewable energy?
  6. Should the money at least be spent on increasing farmers’ drought resistance, rather than temporary assistance such as transport subsidies?
  7. If this drought is not related to climate change, it’s not a natural disaster, is it? It’s just our usual climate of insufficient water every decade or so?
  8. Viable farmers have been managing drought for the past couple of hundred years, and they now have farm management deposits to smooth out the financial impact of good and bad seasons – why throw another billion dollars at them?
  9. Is there a contradiction in the price of farm land continuing to rise when farms apparently aren’t viable?
  10. Are farms simply too expensive? Is there a bubble in the price of agricultural land that needs to pop to help farms become sustainable?
  11. Why are agricultural businesses given such special assistance when many other businesses in trouble are not?
  12. Should assistance be aimed at helping non-viable farms exit the industry, rather than propping them up, delaying the inevitable?

This article first appeared in New Daily on 4 August 2018

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3 Responses to MICHAEL PASCOE. The key question for governments giving farmers money: is it climate change or weather? (New Daily)

  1. Michael Hart says:

    Mr Pascoe would well ask the question of himself, better still how about the whole of Australia ask themselves these questions, rather than gratuitous asides about farmer and drought:

    1. Now that it is unambiguously clear that the climate has changed and is changing as a result of our industrialised lifestyles and use of fossil fuels and will continue to do in a manner harmful to our agricultural base and our water resources, what are we going to do?
    2. How long do you expect to be able to use electricity without thought for the environmental cost of burning toxic fuels to make that electricity?
    3. How long do you expect to be able to eat fresh meat and vegetables when the people and businesses who produce that food go out of business because the climate stops them doing that?
    4. How long do you think you can continue to meet the rising costs of damage to our capital infrastructure, homes and business resulting from erratic and damaging weather related phenomena?
    5. How long do you think the whole environment upon which you depend can continue to be damaged and degraded before you cannot exist?
    6. What about your children and grandchildren’s future? Have you thought about that?

  2. Malcolm Crout says:

    All good questions which will never be allowed to be asked or will go unanswered simply because the Liberals hold power with their coalition partners the Nationals, who are a pro farm party. Consequently, the Murdoch rags will never ask these questions and the ABC are too scared to make waves at the risk of complete emasculation. The ALP is in no position to promote the truth because the fervour stirred up by the media would turn the populace away – until the drought is over and the discussion can be had without the attending hysteria.

  3. Jocelyn Pixley says:

    Thank goodness Michael Pascoe has asked this question. There are others – what has happened to the Murray-Darling basin; why is the underground water leeching away, let alone one of the dams near Sydney. Also the land clearance that has allowed trees to be bulldozed in NSW, Queensland and no doubt other states. A further question is the lavish support for agribusiness and mining. Small farms and market gardens going to more developers. The animals left to die, the live export cruelty – a business which should not exist just to torture the speechless to death over weeks.

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