This past weekend I reached breaking point. I cannot take any more of the drought, so instead of collapsing into the arms of politicians in front of a media throng or starting a well-meaning, solve-nothing charity I’m penning this column. To the media bleeding hearts out there I say prepare your stones – I am ready.
In the past two weeks there is not a paper, television, radio or Facebook feed that has not oozed with bleeding hearts of the drought, a shockwave of grief and woe. One would have thought that the current big dry only started last month. Call me a cynic but it looks like the drought has come to Sydney’s doorstep and that's why it’s a national crisis. How about a shout out to the poor souls of western Queensland who have been battling this dry for over three years?
The media ‘rejoices’ in the devastation but does little to celebrate the farmer who ingeniously has drought-proofed his enterprise, diversified his income or installed water systems. The accurate story is in fact one of remarkable resilience in the face of tough climate conditions, not one of woe and handouts. Australian farmers stand on their own and have to manage their land, stock and their balance sheet to survive this drought and the next with very little government support.
Grief sells – politicians jump on the bandwagon because donning an Akubra and ‘supporting’ farmers buys more votes than Pauline asking “please explain” during a by-election.
Currently there are around 90,000 farmers in this nation. The reality is that less than 3 per cent of farmers are currently receiving the relatively limited funding available.
The national outpouring needs to be pointed into a conversation that could actually deliver change in the economic and cultural direction of this nation.
A conversation about water storage and use might be a start. We could explain the benefits of building an inland rail system for efficient movement of grain and fodder across the continent. We need strong fair trade agreements with our global markets that protect our agricultural industries from unfair levels of subsidy and tariffs.
I just want some nation-building change to come from this media spotlight. I can’t deal with another tear-jerking story of grief, despair and a fake Akubra, shot in a paddock west of Bourke.
Bryce Camm is a columnist for Queensland Country Life