Thursday, November 7, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

No exit
The PM’s drought relief package has come too late


“As a consequence of climate change, drought is likely to be more regular, longer in duration, and broader in area,” wrote the drought coordinator-general, Major General Stephen Day, in his April report, finally released today. “It means that farmers and communities who rarely see drought are likely to see it more often. And those that have been managing drought for many years may now see it intensify beyond their lived experience. Ultimately, the nation could see some areas of Australia become more marginal and unproductive.” That advice may be too apocalyptic in tone for the prime minister, who today announced an extra $709 million in drought relief – including direct cash injections for farmers, small businesses and local councils – but whose government continues to ignore the elephant in the room.

Reaction has been mixed. Broadcaster Alan Jones slammed Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie this morning – no surprise there – saying the nnewly announced concessional interest-free loans were unaffordable for farmers who “don’t have the money” to pay them back. Go figure. The Australian Financial Review editorialised [$] that “by letting farmers rely on welfare for longer the government is encouraging dependency by propping up otherwise unviable farmers”. The Greens’ agriculture spokesperson, Janet Rice, said the package was a bandaid solution: “The first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that one exists, yet the government has no plan to tackle the real issues or deal with the effects of the climate crisis on Australian farmers. There is also no plan to offer support or alternatives to farmers whose land is deemed unviable.” Rice also criticised the government for ignoring the National Farmers’ Federation’s call for exit packages, although the NFF itself made no mention of that in its response today. To be needlessly fair to the government, last month’s combined Agriculture Ministers’ Forum did endorse a “coordinated national approach and proposed work program” to help the agriculture sector “adapt to climate change and manage emissions”.

An interesting aspect of the drought package is a deal between the federal and South Australian governments to secure up to 100 gigalitres of water for farmers to grow fodder, silage and pasture at a discounted rate. Drought Minister David Littleproud said the water would produce up to 120,000 tonnes of feed for animals on farms in drought. The Australia Institute has been calling for water to be made available for fodder since April, and senior water researcher Maryanne Slattery repeated the call on the ABC’s Q&A a fortnight ago. Slattery today welcomed the announcement of extra water – to be sourced by supplying less water out of the Murray–Darling Basin to South Australia, which would also activate its desalination plant – but warned that there would have to be some “pretty creative” water accounting. She also warned that the amount of extra water per farmer was very low, and, becoming available in April, could arrive too late for many, meaning that feed grown in winter would not be ready until November. “In principle it’s a really good move and something that should be part of our drought strategy,” said Slattery, “but it’s probably not going to be enough.”

The government should have listened, and acted, earlier.

“Sally McManus is very keen on it. I find myself agreeing with her, which makes me want to go and slap myself with cold water in front of the mirror, but I think it’s a good idea.”

Attorney-General and Minister for Industrial Relations Christian Porter puts corporate Australia on notice over an epidemic of worker underpayment, proposing bans against directors and adopting an ACTU proposal to help individual workers to take underpayment claims to the Fair Work Commission.

“It was similar to the AEC colours, yes.”

The former acting Victorian state director for the Liberal Party, Simon Frost, admits in the Federal Court yesterday that purple Chinese-language corflutes used in the electorates of Chisholm and Kooyong were intended to look like AEC signage.

The death toll of inequality
There is a widening gap in Australia between the life expectancy of the rich and the poor. On some figures it is as much as 10 years. Mike Seccombe on the death toll of inequality.

The amount of money that Chinese billionaire and major-party-donor Huang Xiangmo’s Yuhu Group paid to political fixer Sevag Chalabian in a transaction initiated by former NSW Labor treasurer Eric Roozendaal, who was Yuhu’s chief executive at the time, in a deal now subject to police investigation.

“The Andrews Labor government has announced the largest environmental protection policy in the state’s history, with immediate protections for the iconic Greater Glider species, native fauna and Victoria’s remaining old-growth forest. This historic decision, which includes a gradual phaseout of all logging in native forests by 2030, will reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by 1.71 million tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent each year for 25 years – the equivalent of taking 730,000 cars off the road annually.”

The list

“Equivocation is the predominating mood of Tolentino’s essays. They revel in double binds, and take especial joy in pointing out the double standards wrought by contemporary feminism. ‘Always Be Optimising’, an essay charting the rise of athleisure clothing, Tolentino argues that ‘feminism has not eradicated the tyranny of the ideal woman but, rather, has entrenched it and made it trickier’.”

“To say women are underrepresented in the visual art world is to state the obvious. Unpicking how and why we have ended up here, though, is less straightforward. The German dauber Georg Baselitz believes he has worked it out: ‘Women don’t paint very well,’ he told Der Spiegel in 2013.”

“In retirement, Margaret Court began to suffer ‘feelings of uselessness, inferiority, unworthiness’. She found succour in Jesus, became a Pentecostal pastor and founded her own church in Perth. In 1990, she accused lesbians of ruining women’s tennis and cited Navratilova as a bad example to young players.”

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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