Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor


Opinion
The lack of effective drought strategy will cost the economy in lost production when the drought breaks, says Peter Carter.

The lack of effective drought strategy will cost the economy in lost production when the drought breaks, says Peter Carter.

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On Australian Wool Innovation, a farce of drought subsidies and an outsiders' perspective of just how hard this drought has hit the state.

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Which way to vote?

WITH the embers of the Ernst and Young report still burning, the wool industry voting on the continuance of Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) via WoolPoll is well underway.

After $700 million in wool tax since 2003, is the Merino industry stronger or weaker?

Has AWI innovated one commercially game-changing new product? Has there actually been any “wool innovation”?

AWI claims its marketing programs are responsible for new demand and increased prices, but in the first five sales of the new season in 2018, average bale sales are now 5000 less a week than last year. 

Wool supply is dropping as the drought bites and people look at sheepmeat options ahead of wool. 

By voting 1.5pc as your first preference, you will allow AWI to continue to function on an equal revenue stream to last year, owing to higher wool prices.

AWI’s public call for 2pc is truly greedy, knowing how many are suffering at the moment. 

Saving 0.5pc of your gross wool cheque is much needed to feed stock and keep the farm running, or take the family for a much-needed holiday.

As a second preference, by voting 0pc, you will ensure that the weighted preference WoolPoll voting system ensures a 1.5pc levy.

If 0pc was the option most wanted, it would force AWI to become a proper public company, and at last issue shares to every previous wool taxpayer.

Wouldn’t that be a change – to actually own a woolgrower company that has to make a profit and return dividends to its shareholders? 

Let’s pray for that day

CHARLES (Chick) OLSSON,

Australian Wool Growers Association director.

Drought cop-out

MAL Peters was correct when he called for the reintroduction of exceptional circumstances declaration for the current drought (It’s an EC drought, just call it for what it is”, The Land, September 13, p27).

The ploy by Treasury mandarins to convince the government of the day, that given a little nudge, farmers can prepare for all droughts and don’t need to be bailed out is rubbish.

This current suite of options open to drought stricken farmers is a mixture of pseudo-largess in the case of household payments and giving with one hand and taking with the other in the case of transport subsidies and loans.

As long as I can remember, the transport subsidy had a limit on it of $17,000 to $20,000, but was never means tested.

Limiting the option to farmers with less than one million dollars of off-farm assets flies in the face of Treasury’s stated aim to force farmers to prepare for drought.

It becomes ridiculous when one looks into it and finds that if off-farm assets are in a self managed super fund, the sky is the limit!

To be realistic in this day and age, the limit needs to be lifted to at least $50,000.  It is 25 years since it was $20,000.

Prices of freight (diesel etcetera) have taken off, thanks to our agreement with the Paris Climate accord and the requirement of less than $1,000,000 of off-farm assets needs to go.

There should not be any limit in off-farm assets for the sake of fairness and equity with those farmers who have been smart enough to place off-farm assets in a super fund.

In days of exceptional circumstances, such as the 1981-82 drought, the Rural Assistance Authority offered loans of $20,000 for the purpose of carry-on, purchase of fodder, agistment and restocking if necessary.

This was in 1982 extended to a maximum of $60,000.

There does not appear to be any easy option to borrow for fodder as in 1981-82.

I have spoken to people who have already spent over $1,000,000 buying feed. The $20,000 to $60,000 of 1981-82 needs adjusting to at least $200,000.

The term should be of reasonable length and the interest rate minimal in order to see that breeding stock are kept and not sent to slaughter.

Australia’s economy will fall in a heap after the drought ends and living expenses will rise considerably if this is not not addressed.

So far, both state and federal governments have let Treasury pull all the strings and the Coalition, both state and federal, are in danger of being judged by the electorate of copying the Labor Party’s policy on farmers of “do nothing and hope something turns up”!

PETER CARTER,

Wellington.

Eye opener

WE DROVE to Gunnedah recently to visit my cousin and soon became aware of the effects of the drought. 

The Hunter Valley, remembered as mostly green and pleasant, was parched, in places overwhelmed by giant, bleak open-cut coal mines and many of the trees grey with dust.

Quirindi, surrounded by bleached, dry hills was quiet, shops closing early in the afternoon. Then the road flattened onto the black Liverpool Plain around Breeza. There were no cattle, no sheep, no crops and no pasture. 

Gunnedah, at first, almost seemed to be business as usual. People shopping, farmers in work clothes in the supermarket, frequent B-doubles carrying sheep or hay rolling through the town. 

We drove on to Coonabarabran. Again, bare paddocks, and just a few sheep. And every creek and dam dry. 

Now the young eucalyptus trees were dying, the mature trees hanging on. The town subdued, and on level 6 water restrictions – no outside water use permitted.

After admiring the magnificent Warrumbungles and the Observatory, we drove to Mendooran and Dunedoo. 

Beautiful, undulating country, but again, bare paddocks, empty dams and the Castlereagh River bone dry.

Then, as we headed to Gulgong, the country began to change. Dams were almost full, creeks were flowing and pastures green. The paddocks had cattle, sheep and newborn lambs. 

The contrast was dramatic. Some localised rain a few weeks before over a small area had brought about this transformation. 

The green pastures continued on to Mudgee where a wine festival was underway. This gave a very different experience – bustling cafes, blossom trees and festival banners. 

When it does finally rain, the farmers and people are more than ready to move from survival to normal life again. 

The rain will come and the land will heal, but right now many towns and many people are doing it very hard. 

A popular saying is “tough times don’t last but tough people do”. But even the tough need help in a time like this.

LINDSAY McKEON,

Cherrybrook.

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