Farming and agriculture has been at the forefront of Australia’s development as a nation since the very beginning, feeding our growing population and providing an underlying economic lynchpin that has been vital to our prosperity.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced a $190 million ‘drought relief package’ this week to help drought-stricken farmers continue to battle one of the worst dry periods ever recorded.
In the following piece, Ethan Nash argues current campaigns by both government and media authorities to ‘help the farmers’ are all a smoke screen to distract the public from the fact this situation was manufactured to be this way and isn’t meant to be fixed any time soon.
‘RELIEF’ – DESTINED TO FAIL?
Farming in Australia creates 1.6 million jobs in the complete farming supply chain and contributes $155 billion to GDP annually ($60 billion for agriculture alone). It also creates wealth that is redistributed within Australia, as opposed to mining profits, which are mostly exported by multinationals that pay little if any tax.
In the 2015-2016 financial year, Australia sold more than A$46 billion worth of beef, wheat, wine, wool, cotton, dairy and other farm products to the world.
It is clear that agriculture continues to be one of the largest assets of Australian domestic industry, however despite this, the country has a long history of droughts and the current extended dry span is now evaporating most of the moisture in NSW soil.
The current drought is being described by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as “one of the worst droughts of the past century”.
In a long-delayed response to the crisis, Turnbull announced on Sunday the move to help those under intense financial strain due to relentless drought conditions, signing off on emergency “special” payments for eligible farmers, to be made through the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) scheme.
Despite an initial warm reception to the announcement, cracks began to appear in the effectiveness of the scheme as further details have been revealed on the process and particulars involved – including distribution numbers and process pictures.
It has since been revealed that $190 million distributed evenly between affected farmers will result in payments of up to only $12,000 each for the bank accounts of those battling with the water deficit west of the divide.
The payments will reportedly arrive in two lump sums of $6,000 each.
The first is due to be distributed from September 1 – 25 days away from the date of publishing this piece – with the second arriving in March.
1x large square of hay costs $250-$300 and feeds roughly 100 head of cattle for one day. 33 squares fit to an average trailer. At this rate, a farmer will spend over $8,000 in the first month to fill their trailer and feed their cattle based on a 100-head farm.
Is this a joke or something?
Drought-awareness campaigner, Edwina Robertson – who broke down during an emotional confrontation with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in regional New South Wales – spoke on the ‘relief’ package:
“I think there’s just no understanding of what people need and how dire it is.
That’s the worrying thing, that people are doing it seriously tough and, you know, $12,000 in two payments over 12 months is just not enough. It’s not enough at all.”
Her sentiment echo’s most in outback Australia, who say it is all but too late and too little of an effort by a government that routinely gives away billions in taxpayer funds to foreign interests and corporations, continuously to drive down any chance for Australia’s agricultural survival.
Where is all of Australia’s money going?
FOREIGN AID – LARGER THAN EVER
One of the largest contributors to Australia’s national debt is the substantial amount in foreign aid we donate to other countries and their farmers each year ahead of our own.
In fact, documents have revealed that Australia will provide $4.2 BILLION in Official Development Assistance (ODA) in the 2018-19 budgets, our highest contribution ever.
Here is statement by current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop on the purpose and justification of our foreign aid:
“Focused on the Indo-Pacific, our assistance serves our national interests by contributing to sustainable economic development and poverty reduction.
We support better state capability to improve governance and promote private sector-led growth …”
Why are Australian farmers not included on this list?
Australia’s agricultural industry alone is worth an average of $60 billion per annum to Australia.
According to the Office of the Chief Economist’s Australian Industry Report 2016, although agriculture is dwarfed by other sectors of the Australian economy – its share of gross domestic product is 2.2 per cent.
Isn’t the protection of vital farming resources in the national interest? Won’t the preservation and invigoration of our nation’s agricultural industry lead to economic development and poverty reduction? Why are we supporting countries like Papua New Guinea before our own?
Lifeline figures have repeatedly shown that when a severe drought hits a rural community, financial and emotional stress levels climb significantly in a community, and suicide rates increase sixfold.
Is this situation not the same criteria that would qualify other countries for aid entitlements?
Why is it that a government can continuously boast on an international level about humanitarianism efforts abroad, but won’t offer the same level of priority with our own citizens?
The answer is very clear – The Australian government doesn’t care about farmers!
In addition to our ridiculous foreign aid budget, the Australian government has a consistent track record of confusion when it comes to ways our budget is spent.
Back in April, in the most recent example of authorities misusing taxpayer funds to hit the public’s eyes, the Federal Government announced it would give the Great Barrier Reef Foundation $444 million to fund projects to improve the ‘health on the reef’.
The foundation had only six staff when it was told it was getting the huge grant, which managing director Anna Marsden told Radio National was an “absolute surprise”.
Some people argue the reef isn’t even sick.
Yet it’s only $190 million for an agricultural sector worth $60 billion per annum?
THE DESTRUCTION OF AGRICULTURE
There has recently been considerable debate and justified concern expressed in the Australian press and public life regarding whether the regulation of acquisitions by foreign persons of Australian rural land is sufficient – and what the consequences will hold if allowed to continue.
Between 1981 and 2011, the number of farmers in Australia declined by 40 percent. The reasons were varied – farm rationalisations, drought, economic downturns – but many younger farmers left the land simply because they saw ‘no future in it’.
Some of the concern that has risen from this situation include matters of domestic food security and prosperity, along with the potential for acquisition of Australian rural land by foreign governments and foreign state-owned entities amidst the crisis.
Here are some quick statistics about foreign ownership in Australia by the Turnbull government:
- 13.6 per cent of all Australian agricultural land is foreign owned, and the preferred investment path was through leasehold.
- Foreigners now own up to a quarter of all agricultural land in the Northern Territory and Tasmania, and 14 per cent of all farms across the country.
- In NSW and Victoria, foreign interests own more than 3 million hectares.
- In Queensland it is six times that, with more than 17 million hectares now owned by other countries through cattle stations, crops and abattoirs as of September 2017.
Many have expressed concerns about the continued vulnerability and selling of Australia’s rural land, speaking on the dangers of increased globalization of various national products, allowing import vs export rates to become disproportionate while driving domestic costs up and removing vital resources from remaining farmers.
The Australian farming industry has been destroyed by design.
THE RISE OF CHINA
The most interesting development in the foreign selloff of Australian land is China jumping from fifth largest foreign Australian land-holding country – behind Britain, the US, the Netherlands and Singapore – to second in the last 12 months.
This also includes an increase of 10 times the amount of land the country owned at this time last year in comparison, a statistics that has many social groups concerned.
This follows revelations in November 2017 the amount of agricultural land owned by Chinese interests had soared above 3 million hectares, more than double the 1.46 million declared by the Australian Taxation Office at the time.
This figure would be also be eclipsed by two of the largest property purchases to date: The 705,000-hectare Wollogorang and Wentworth station on the Queensland/Northern Territory border, and the 639,500-Balfour Downs and Wandanya station in Western Australia.
Both of these deals are owned by Chinese ball bearing billionaire Xingfa Ma, with the local operating arm of real estate developer Shanghai CRED following closely behind.
Shanghai CRED has settled purchases of two large cattle stations in WA: the 200,000 hectare Mount Elizabeth station and the 189,000 hectare Yakka Munga station.
It also obtained approval to buy more than 400,000 hectares of pastoral land in WA’s Goldfields region and was part of a $365 million joint bid with Gina Rinehart for the sprawling S. Kidman and Co land portfolio.
Most of this land will be used for exporting resources back to China and other Asian countries.
A continued trend in mass foreign ownership will drive the domestic industry further into struggle, forcing more farmers to negotiate with banks, form conglomerates that cut profitability and sustainability, or sell their assets to the same foreign interests responsible.
The continued destruction of this country’s agricultural industry can be directly linked to the influence and power that corporate interests hold in Australia.
Banking interests in Australia have a long and well-documented history of causing distress, loss and pain to multitudes of Australian farming families.
In one example, action is being mounted in the Federal Court alleging that ANZ forced farmers into “engineered defaults” and entrapped them into signing changed loan contracts when it bought out the loan book of the Landmark group in 2009.
This is the same bank that Turnbull’s government recently legislated policies towards – undermining repeated rhetoric for ‘caring’ – that included announcing tax cuts resulting in $17 billion of ‘reverse donations’ to Australia’s largest banks.
$17 billion vs $190 million – you do the math!
The rabbit hole doesn’t stop there, in fact it gets deeper.
The Australian government has been involved in numerous geoengineering programs that have manipulated our weather since the mid-20th century, with many organisations producing extensive work on the lasting affects of cloud seeding trials on country terrain.
One of those affects? Drought and lack of rainfall.
It would come as no surprise that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would announce in 2007 that $10 million from the Australian Government Water Fund will be given to the investigation of an ‘untried technology’ that aims to trigger rainfall from the atmosphere, even with no clouds.
This was a public and unified move for the secretive practice of cloud seeding and geoengineering, a method that has been used to fight drought before in Australia and many argue is a direct link to the unusual patterns in weather and rainfall across the decade.
Farming has helped shape our nation – it is embedded into our daily life, is a major contributor to our economy and will help sustain our population and those of our export partners in the years to come.
In this piece, we have demonstrated that not only is the long-awaited ‘relief’ package nothing more than a welfare farce in disguise, but we have also shown readers that despite countless opportunities to offer real assistance – such as cutting our ridiculous foreign aid targets and stopping the foreign buying of mass resources – the Australian government would rather watch our famers suffer then offer real assistance.
As the backbone of our country continues to be left for dead, we must support our Australian farmers who incorporate a strong sense of tradition, adaptability and resilience born of necessity.
Indeed, this strength of character and resolve required to make farming in our dry continent a success will be the very same attributes that lead us out of this dry period.
Support your local community, buy Australian, communicate grassroots alternatives, and most importantly – never believe that an oligarchy that caused the situation will be sincere in their efforts to fix it.
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