Farmers paid to “exit with dignity”

This is yesterday’s news, but I’m its yesterday man (my friends, that’s what I am).

The plight of drought-ravaged farmers has become so dire that the Federal Government will pay the most severely affected $150,000 each to walk off their land and another $20,000 for retraining and the cost of moving.

The “exit with dignity” and relocation grants will be available to up to 1000 farmers at a cost of $170 million.

Very interesting. It comes among a steady stream of news about the declining fortunes of Australian agriculturalism – such as there being no water anymore. Meanwhile:

The head of the National Farmers Federation, Ben Fargher, said he did not know how many farmers would take up the exit payments. “It’s very hard to have a drought of this nature without there being structural impacts on the industry,” he said. But he denied that it was time for some land to be declared unsuitable for farming.

“We don’t see a vacant landscape as the answer,” he said. “We haven’t been sitting on our hands waiting for the drought to end … We have been doing a lot in terms of environmental sustainability on farms.”

Last week the federation released a pre-election policy document calling for more to be spent on preparing farmers for the effects of climate change.

What was it called? “Teach Farmers How To Water Their Crops With Hot, Dry Air”?

If I might end by making fun of the government, the Sydney Morning Herald does provide this timeline:

Last year Mr Howard refused to countenance suggestions by scientists and environmentalists that up to 5 per cent of Australia’s farms might be rendered unworkable by climate change.

In October he quashed suggestions that farmers could be paid to leave land made unproductive by climate change, saying fewer farmers would damage the country’s psyche.

I would suggest a single man in Australia (maybe his deputy, too) is doing more damage to our psyche than anything, or anyone, else in a generation or two. Then there is the motivation for the about-face:

“We are going through a terrible time and what this package will do is give people some hope and it will tell them their fellow Australians are with them, they have not forgotten them and they feel for them,” John Howard said.

“We are acting for them in their hour of need.”

I’m the sure the Indigenous, the drug-addicted, the Poker-machine-bankrupts, the single-working-mothers,… all appreciate how we feel for farmers and their need to move on with dignity and billions in government support when circumstances go thoroughly against them.

I’m not saying farmers deserve no help. I am saying John Howard is a disgusting hypocrite.

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