Drought is a fact of life in Australia. But what to do about farmers who are caught up in it all? Do we help them out, like we always do,via tax payer funded relief packages, do we shrug our shoulders and say "tough" or should we look at doing something else, like trying to work out how the hell we are going to live with this new reality rather than simply hoping for rain?
Unfortunately for us, debate is too hard, so our Governments will just throw some more money at the farmers so that they can service their mounting debts. That ought to shut them up for a while.
But it is getting a bit ridiculous now. I mean, how much of a relief is too much? And should we keep giving it anyway?
Well, here's one view:
"Farmers. Fellas. If a little milk bar operator, dry cleaner, plumber, printer, chippy, lawyer, dentist, doctor, engineer, butcher or any other small business goes under there is no government handout available. Those business people are required to stand or fall on the strength of their own planning, operation, diligence, risk assessment, market observation, personal and business insurance protection positions. End of story. Question is, why the hell should we all, as tax payers, keep bailing you out? You know the risks, you enjoy the returns. If you have a business problem, sort it out yourself. Yes, we know the weather can't be controlled. Tell that to the local electrician who cannot get Telstra or some other large service provider to do their job and misses out on a Yellow Pages ad, or whose telephone business lifeline goes down. Nobody steps in to pick them up. At least you have the Farm Deposit scheme – not available to any other taxpayer – where you can defer tax paid on income into those years which are good. Lucky you.
With all the government (read taxpayer) support, technical services, science, management schools, courses, urging, droughts, market responses and media coverage, why haven't you learnt?"
Harsh words. But I sort of agree with the sentiment. Why should we continually be asked to prop farmers up with handouts? Why do they deserve more of a leg-up than other businesses? Of course a very simplistic line of argument that hardly adds much to the whole debate.
Which is why John Williams' article (apparently he is the former boss of the CSIRO's land and water division), in The
Williams criticised government drought policy yesterday – but also added
“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.”
It's a healthy debate to have, and a necessary one. I dunno what the answers are, but I don't think continual, haphazard subsidies and handouts are they way to go. All that shows is that we have no real plan for dealing with the effects of the extreme fluctuations of our climate. Which is pretty piss poor really.
We can't drought proof this place, but we should be able to work out a better way of dealing with a future that will be hotter and drier than the past.