Politics Opinion

A subsidy a day keeps the farmer in play

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Scott Morrison's Government is intent on subsidising farmers to the exclusion of others in need (image via YouTube)

If Australia has an over-subsidised industry sector, it sure isn't the renewable energy that the mining lobby and the Coalition keep rattling on about.

It is highly likely to be the agriculture sector.

There was yet another rural aid concert on the television, this time with a name that really put the "idiot" at the forefront of this concert on the "idiot box". The "Good Onya Mate" concert featured a number of Australian artists and was put on to raise funds for Rural Aid.

It is a charity that, along with several of its subsidiaries, was recently under investigation by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) with privacy laws preventing us from knowing what action was required by Rural Aid as a result of the investigation.

Farmers are essential in the economy and they often do it tough, but let’s face it, they aren’t the only ones. Yet it seems every year there is a concert, a telethon, or some kind of pass the hat around event.

We pay for their subsidies through our taxes. We pay the cost of their hardship at the supermarket checkout, yet every year we are asked to dive into our thinning wallets to find a few dollars more.

There weren't any major "hospitality relief" concerts, "art aid" events, or "travel telethons" for those industries decimated by COVID-19 and largely left high and dry by the Morrison Government that was big on announcements but little else. But ask anyone from these industries (aside from Qantas CEO Alan Joyce) and they’ll tell you all about tough times.

Farmers choose their livelihoods, choose their crops, choose their livestock and choose their destiny, the same as any other business. Sometimes people forget that farms are actually businesses. As a business they make decisions about market conditions, demand and costs the same as any other business. However, no other business sees the same level of public and government support as the agriculture industry.

If I made a dud decision and opened a hamburger joint next door to a McDonalds should I expect some kind of bailout when inevitably things went pear-shaped? If no, why not? I’d be part of the same food supply chain that the Coalition speak of as if it’s a Holy Grail.

Unless, of course, a miner wants the land, then that grail holds only yesterday’s jam and the farmer will only receive "thoughts and prayers" from the Government.

The 2020 budget had $4.8 billion in expenditure for the agriculture industry and that was just in some of the key areas. Add to that the change to the asset write-off rules for farmers with a cost of $26.7 billion over the forward estimates and you start to wonder about the need for the charity gigs etc.

I imagine the Holden and Ford workers and those who relied upon them could have done with some government expenditure of this type. Alas, about the only thing the Coalition would subsidise the manufacture of was a bus to throw these workers under. 

I have no criticism of the artists that supported and donated their efforts for the "Good Onya Mate" concert, they were no doubt trying to do the right thing. Hopefully, some of the money raised makes it through all the subsidiary charity companies associated to someone who is really struggling. However, the irony of all those roadies, lighting operators and sound mixers donating time to farmer relief while their industry has been utterly decimated by COVID-19 is not lost.

The other irony is the fact those farmers impacted by changing climate conditions are overwhelmingly represented by Coalition or National Party MPs. These MPs who promote coal and deny climate change are also the parties who talk about societies' "lifters and leaners". They pretend to have the farmers best interests at heart, while denying the impact of the very thing having a catastrophic impact on their business.

Not only that, but one only has to look at the subsidies being handed to the industry to see that their representatives in Parliament have turned them into welfare recipients. Many find themselves theoretically working for welfare while the actions of the current Government are designed to keep them fighting the losing battle they find themselves in.

Meanwhile, charity and aid for farmers has become an industry sector all of its own.

Peter Wicks is an Independent Australia columnist and a former Federal Labor Party staffer. You can follow him on Twitter @MadWixxy.

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