A new opinion piece by one of Australia’s most respected economic journalists has taken aim at the media’s coverage of the drought.
On Sunday, the Australian Government’s drought package was given a $250 million boost, but Fairfax’s Ross Gittins worries it will be a waste of taxpayers’ money. In fact, he believes the donations and taxpayer assistance “just prolong the agony of farmers”. Instead of bailing out farmers suffering through drought, Mr Gittins believes the unprepared, or “bad managers” as he calls them, should be allowed to fail.
“The trouble with our emergency assistance approach to drought is that it encourages farmers not to bother preparing for the inevitable,” he writes. “It encourages farmers whose farms are too small, or who lack the skills or spare capital to survive, to keep struggling on when they should give up.”
For a long time, the NSW Nationals have been working to secure cheap loans for farmers to help drought-proof their properties, because we know all too well that droughts are a part of life on the land. We’re from the regions and we’re for the regions. We know that this drought isn’t just hurting farmers, it’s also hurting their communities. Entire regions are doing it tough across the State because when farmers don’t earn, they don’t spend. Farmers aren’t spending money at the ag supply shop, because they’re busy trying to survive. This, in turn, drives a wave of economic pain across these communities and everyone suffers.
Ross Gittins makes some great points about the importance of preparedness, but we can’t simply sit back and let whole communities go under to make a point. That’s not being cruel to be kind, it’s simply cruel.
Yes, the media only seem to notice farming when there’s a drought on and they need to take responsibility for their part in the cycle of sympathy and apathy. Rather than sitting on the sidelines and pointing at natural disasters or scandals, the media industry could better serve everyone by getting out of the cities every now and then and reporting some of the great stories out there. Lamb prices are at record highs, wine exports are doing great things and food production is up. We’ve got great Australians doing great things in our regions, and they deserve just as much coverage as the people in Sydney.
The NSW Nationals make no apologies for supporting our communities and encouraging our farmers to drought-proof their properties. But we can’t just lay the boot in while people are already down. That’s just cruel.