Road Trip….Anyone?

farm field

I spent this last weekend in Walgett and Lightning Ridge, listening to and meeting with Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, his staff, Brent Finlay (NFF), Fiona Simson (NSWFA), landholders, small business owners, local government representatives, LLS personnel and concerned community members. Every person at those meetings wanted to find a solution to the current crisis besetting agriculture in ever-increasing areas of Australia.

Much of the discussion has been reported in all sorts of media so there is no need for me to repeat that, but what has not been overly evident in these reports was the support of and assistance requests for, small business operators who also rely on the weather for their income; contractors and other small operators who rely on a functioning agricultural sector to maintain their enterprises.

Also discussed was the loss of reliable staff, who have already or are about to, lose their jobs as businesses (in and out of town) cut back on expenses. Most of these people will leave town to find other employment and once gone, they will never return. Various workable and achievable suggestions were put forward e.g. a return of the Regional Employment and Development Scheme (The RED Scheme).

News reports appearing now concerning the Federal Treasurer, Joe Hockey’s response, are not looking positive for Barnaby’s approach to Cabinet on our behalf and comparisons with the SPC debate only serve to imply that farmers also have multi-million dollar backing. The statistics for agriculture are that debt has increased exponentially, not profit. My workplace agreement doesn’t include leave, let alone leave loading.

Mr. Hockey is quoted as saying “We’re all very aware of what’s happening in regional and rural Australia…” With all due respect sir, you do not. From personal experience, when you are removed from the situation it does not have the same impact on your psyche. You have not seen the suffering or felt the reality nor have you met with the human face of what is “happening in regional and rural Australia”.

I invite you and your colleagues to do just that. Come “out here” and meet the people you are suggesting should get off the merry-go-round, to shape up or ship out. Come and listen to the measures that land managers put in place to prepare for this drought. Come and tell them what you believe to be an acceptable level of preparedness. Leave your air-conditioned office and come and tell us in person about the “swings and roundabouts” of the Australian climate.

The Federal Government defines Exceptional Circumstances as “rare and severe events outside those a farmer could normally be expected to manage using responsible farm management strategies. Specifically, they are events that occur on average once every 20 to 25 years and have an impact on income for a prolonged period (greater than 12 months).”

This drought has surpassed any on record, in many areas, let alone the 20 to 25 year average and “greater than 12 months” is a dim memory.

Politics is a numbers game and this debate in Cabinet will be no different. So if you are wondering what you can do to help, I have a suggestion; put pen to paper, fingers on the keyboard or dial a number on your phone and call any politician whose contact details you can find.

Then make sure every person you know does the same.

6 thoughts on “Road Trip….Anyone?

  1. Well said as always Tanya! I think a week or two actually living in the community would need to be done though! Just dropping in to a ‘guest-ready’ home or twin wouldn’t be enough.

  2. Perhaps we could stop paying our past prime minister, Gough, Hawke, Fraser etc.etc.This would give Australia at least few million dollars. for our farmers.

  3. What a great blog, Tanya! I do not think that politicians living on the coastal side of the Sandstone Curtain have any idea what you are experiencing. Having lived in Peel, outside Bathurst, in the 1980′s drought, I DO have some understanding, but it is easy to forget. Let’s hope Barnaby Joyce has more clout in Cabinet than we all think!

  4. they have no idea…………come and spend a day on a farm, checking water, pulling bogged sheep out of dams, feeding stock, feeding abandoned poddy calves, daylight to dark something is happening and it is just managing the drought….no other work is happening on the farm………….thank goodness kids have gone back to school to escape some of it…………then it is all the incidental side affects, no holidays, gardens dying, no time to even go away for a night, constant battle of dust, late dinners, everyone tired and cranky………….and the area I am in is not even drought declared…………not even acknowledged as in drought……………

    Come on CWA push push push…………if you want something done get a woman to do it………….see why it’s taking to long…………to many men involved…………….

    Keep talking Tanya………..make it loud and clear…………we can’t keep going like this…………

  5. Good on you Tanya, you are so down to earth and switched on. Let’s hope something positive comes out of this drought and farmers are valued for their loyalty for looking after their suffering stock and property. Making do with muddy water and pulling bogged sheep and cattle out of mud and trying to keep everything alive. We are also living with drought. Just a thought, if farmers of all types were paid properly for their produce they would not have to produce so much to make a decent living and pay the bills, such as hugely inflated electricity bills thanks to the carbon tax. Most farmers don’t have holidays or time off, it is a 24/7 job. Our days are long and tiring also thanks to the silly daylight saving, which is another stress. I would love city people to come out in the heat and dust to stay on a farm to experience the true Aussie spirit that farmers live every day, or just to experience the amount of work that happens every day. It is not 9 – 5 at all on farms. I happen to love living where I live in the bush on a farm. We just need a fair go.

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