Letters to the Editor || Barnaby’s appointment || Jan Kleeman

Member for New England Barnaby Joyce.
Member for New England Barnaby Joyce.

What a joke! What a dumb idea.

Barnaby Joyce appointed Special Envoy for drought assistance and recovery.

Barnaby Joyce: a man who has a long history of denying Climate Change and vigorously opposing the need for climate action.

A man who has been wheeling and dealing to hold Australia in the Dark ages of coal.

A man who proudly boasted to an audience in a Shepparton pub when in charge of Water Resources and Agriculture portfolios that he had taken environmental water and put it back into “Agriculture” “so we don’t have Greenies running the show”. Subsequent commissions and inquires reveal that he bastardised the intended outcomes for the Murray Darling Basin Plan in favour of big irrigation lobbyists and now he wants to do it again for equally spurious reasons.

A man who is currently on record saying: “climate change policy won’t help farmers battling drought” and “reducing emissions in Australia won’t change the climate. It will have no difference on the climate whatsoever- zero, zip nothing”: 7/8/18 

These are not credentials for a “go-to man” for drought assistance and recovery!

The vast majority of Australians accept that human induced contributions to climate change are real and scientists have linked the current record- breaking drought to global warming, yet Coalition conservatives still give climate change scepticism political space and frame the debate around electricity prices, above all things. Despite the political spin, electricity prices are NOT the major concern for drought- stricken farmers. How much rain falls out of the sky IS and no amount of promised dog proof fencing, or water pinched from a drought thirsty environment or questionable promises of lower electricity prices will have any effect on that.

Good farmers acknowledge drought is a regular part of agriculture and plan accordingly with sound environmental management practices that do not result in their land being turned into mega sized dust bowls scattered with dead and dying stock as portrayed in the media. They will however be seriously stressed and hurting in a big way financially as more frequent and severe droughts take their grip and will require some relief measures, some more than others.

For more than a decade, rural communities have recognised a critical need for the development of a National Drought Policy framed on what we know about the inter-connectivity of climate change and drought. Unfortunately, there are few political advantages in pursuing this course of action so for more than a decade absolutely none has been taken and incompetent politicians are continuing to fail rural communities and good farmers while rewarding big irrigation businesses.

Instead of addressing these critical issues we are currently witnessing a dysfunctional government and some politicians using the current drought in a desperate bid to reinvent their own political images by running around the country grabbing photo shoots on drought affected properties while curiously claiming at the same time: “I’m interested in getting people’s electricity prices down and I am not terribly interested in engaging in these sorts of debates [climate change and drought policy] at this point”: Scott Morrison 27/8/18.

“I don’t give a rats if it’s man made or not”: David Littleproud , Q&A 7/8/18 , when asked if he believed that drought was linked to human induced climate changes.

As water supplies dry up in the current record- breaking drought and amid:

  • Reports of increasing licence breaches [1300 calls received by the newly formed Natural Resources Access Regulator in 100 days of operation with about 2000 breaches determined]
  • Announcement from Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Science [released 4/2/18] that Australia exported 1,179, 884 tonnes of fodder, an increase of over 19% in volume terms over 2016 exports to China , Taiwan, Japan and south Korea who are also facing droughts.
  • Announcement of $2.2M investment fund [26/7/18] to boost Australian export fodder productivity and provide competitive advantages in export markets and to assist the industry to “continue to expand its reach”
  • A push to ban hay exports and divert fodder to drought ravaged farmers 
  • Claims from the chief executive of the Australian Fodder Industry Assoc. that “An export industry would be wiped out overnight if the social media-led drive to divert hay exports to livestock producers struggling to source feed for their animals was successful”
  • A warning to Scott Morrison from a top Government adviser blasting “Australia’s flawed financial response to drought”: SMH 29/8/18
  • Rejection by the Commonwealth Water Holder of calls from Barnaby Joyce and “a number of State and federal members of Parliament, along with peak irrigation groups” to divert yet more water from the environment for their own use: SMH 29/2/18
  • Comments from credible economists such as Saul Eslake who point out that “The long- term future of drought assistance can’t be divorced from judgment that ultimately has got to be made about sustainability of agriculture in certain parts of the country in the face of climate change. Just throwing cash at farmers in drought is not ultimately helping farmers as well as being a waste of taxpayer money”.

The simplistic and ill-informed solutions for drought assistance and recovery currently offered by Barnaby Joyce and supported by Adam Marshall and Senator John Williams as reported in the Armidale Express: 29/8/18, can in no way be considered “a wonderful initiative”. They merely serve to highlight the naivety, lack of skills and willingness of our parliamentary leaders to tackle the multifaceted and complex issues related to Climate Change and Droughts.

Barnaby Joyce’s appointment is an insult added to the injuries caused by a dysfunctional and inept Government and as such should be discredited. Anything less continues to drag rural communities, viable agriculture, the environment and our nation further towards a point of no return.

Jan Kleeman,

Donald Creek