Over the last couple of days I have bounced (literally – turbulent flight!) from Sydney to Dubbo and return, with a road trip to Bourke in between, to meet with the Prime Minister Tony Abbott during his tour of drought areas in NSW and Queensland.
Then, on Monday morning, I stared down the barrel of a camera to do a television interview; quite an interesting exercise trying to utter what might be considered close to intelligent answers, whilst making sure my eyes didn’t wander around the empty room, concentrate on the presenter’s voice coming through the ear piece and not ‘fidget’!
Next, race back to our Head Office to chair a meeting of the State Executive Committee, who are here until Thursday to discuss issues and ongoing management of an organisation of 10,000 members as well as progress our Strategic Plan, receive reports and deal with financial matters.
Drought and our response to it, has formed a large part of the activity over the past week, with the donation of $50,000 to the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) from our Disaster Relief Fund and the resulting media interest.
We continue to accept donations via our website which will be forwarded to the RFCS and hopefully, following Mr Abbotts visit and face to face discussions with farmers and community members, the “package” of promised measures will be adequate and swiftly rolled out.
On that subject I have a parting shot to make; there are a number of economists and others, criticising support for a sector that actually contributes to the productivity of the country. Suggesting that assistance will just be propping up unviable farmers beggars belief when you talk to the Rural Financial Counselling Service, as I have been, and ask how many are in fact receiving assistance compared to how many need it. Eligibility criteria actually excludes those who have tried to diversify their assets or generate off farm income but whose cash flow, for running the business, has also come to a standstill.
Many have already left the industry because of various pressures over the last fifteen to twenty years and to suggest those that remain, after having managed to support themselves for up to two years with very little to no income, is an insult and a disgrace.
It’s easy and pretty low, to kick a person when they are down; thank goodness most Australians still want to give a mate a hand up.