The NSW Budget was handed down yesterday amid the usual feather-fluffing and chest beating, but what did it actually deliver to farmers entering their fourth year of no income?
According to Minister for Primary Industries, Lands and Water Niall Blair, $162 million will be invested to deliver quality services to the State’s farmers, landholders and communities through the mythical Local Land Services. Apparently they help communities respond to emergencies like flood, fire and drought. I guess they’re out there somewhere, doing something…
The budget supposedly also provides $63 million in drought assistance funding under the five year NSW Drought Strategy but this includes $50 million for the Farm Innovation Fund. Fantastic initiative for when seasons improve that also increases the value of the farm (a bonus if you want to sell) but it also increases debt levels and there is no point in having a big hay shed or silo if there is nothing to store in it.
Thirteen of the 63 million is then presumably left to teach us how to be resilient and better prepared; something I find interesting. How does a ‘fly-by-nighter’ teach resilience to a farmer who survived the millennium drought and is now into their fourth year of no income in this drought? All nice warm, fuzzy-feeling and apparently future-proofing stuff, but what’s it providing to help those in dire straits right now?
The NSW Government no longer sees the need for a Ministerial portfolio dedicated to Western NSW which is reflected in the budget overview that indicates Western NSW covers the areas of Wagga Wagga, Parkes, Forbes, Dubbo and Tamworth. Cooee to those at Wanaaring, Wilcannia and Pooncarie; CWA of NSW still knows you’re out there.
On the Budget website there is a menu item called Mapping the Budget which (if your internet connection is good enough and the site is ‘responding’) has colourful little icons representing different projects and a map of NSW to show where those projects are to occur. In what I would call Western NSW there are about 10 of 697 identified projects.
Two of these projects are in Walgett with one being an upgrade to the Walgett Community College High School at an estimated total cost of $7,641,000 of which $4,769,000 is committed for this financial year. Fixing the building; great idea! Will it fix the problems within the school? I think not.
Also included in this big spend budget is more than $64 million in 2015-16 to build or refurbish police stations in various areas of the state, including Walgett. Digging a little deeper I found that the estimated cost for the Walgett Police Station is $16,069,000 and this year’s commitment is $3,474,000. When I was in Walgett on Saturday the new building appeared to be almost complete. I guess ‘build’ is just summarizing the detail; media commentators might ask if the money already spent is included in this budget?
Tucked away in a press release from the Parliamentary Secretary for Western NSW I found that $2.2 million is to be spent on the Walgett water supply bore – fantastic if anyone is left to use it. Small businesses in drought affected communities are also buckling under the pressure but I could find nothing for them in the press releases from the Minister for Small Business, except a plethora of references to ‘regional’ NSW. Nothing about rural or remote; hi to all in Tilpa, Tibooburra and Tabbita, will do our best to let ‘them’ know there are still people inhabiting western New South Wales.
I haven’t mentioned Lightning Ridge, but then neither does the budget.
I recently heard Bob Katter talk about “the tyranny of the majority”, so I Googled …according to Wikipedia and many other sites it “involves the scenario in which decisions made by a majority place its interests above those of an individual or minority group …”
Just sayin’ …