Drought Policy

(Andrew Downing) #21


Deputy Secretary is a National Council position that is typically elected at Congress each year, but since it is vacant, the NC has power to appoint in the interim.

Policy Development Officer is not a National Council position. It is officially an electable position, but rarely contested by more than one person. It’s hard work. It’s all about finding consensus solutions with groups of Policy Development Committee volunteers. Imagine herding cats and you’ll get some idea of what is involved.

There is no conflict in holding both positions. You just can’t have two NC positions because that would give one person two votes in the NC.

Application for PDO just requires another email to the National Council.

(John Wilson) #22

Thanks Andrew. I will speak again to John A. to see if this can be worked up and agreed.

(Andrew Downing) #23

It’s a whole of NC decision by vote.
@JohnAugust can’t decide.

(John Wilson) #24

Yes. Understood.

I’ll just be guided by the normal processes and procedure.

I’m not a machine party man.

I am a Professional Organiser

(Andrew Downing) #25

I’m trying to imagine where the comma belongs.

I was helping you out by explaining the normal procedure for PDO application… Send an email to the NC, then be available at the next National Council meeting for questions. That is all.

(John Wilson) #26

Andrew. Relax. It was a throw away line. There was nothing meant.

Your assistance has been valuable.


(Jesse Hermans) #27

I look forward to seeing more policy from a new PDO. I’ll try to lend a hand on occasion to get things started.

As for actual policy, I do fall more on the side of farming subsidies are bad practice. Implicit guaranteed public drought insurance wouldn’t be much of an issue if drought was some sort of freak event - but that’s an oxymoron for a country like Australia. Drought is just part of doing business. If farmers expect public drought insurance, they should be required to pay special drought insurance premiums to the public.

Historically agricultural subsidies, trade protection etc. for agricultural owners was actually to the benefit of big aristocratic rural landowners - not the actual farmers, who in many cases were tenants. In the UK this reached its peak with the Corn Laws. In Australia we weren’t as bad off given we didn’t have a long history of feudalism, but that didn’t stop a “squatocracy” from developing until the federal land tax was introduced not long after federation. Additionally a lot of farmers are landowners, so in Australia farming aid has been given to these constituents from powerful rural lobby groups. We can now see that subsidies to farmers are really just subsidies going to rural landowners:

^That was 8 years ago, what has changed in the system since then? Not much other than the climate…

(Jesse Hermans) #28

Actually it’s funny you should say this… The other day I was watching a friendlyjordies video on land clearing. I was thrown off by his assertion that land clearing is supported by the Nationals on the grounds that it drives smaller farms out of business to the benefit of bigger farmers (Nationals insiders).
What do you make of this claim? It seems a bit of a stretch…

Regardless, I agree with you that planting trees is a way to go. Not only should we plant more of them, but we should probably stop (or drastically reduce) the amount we are currently clearing for changes in land use - more marginal farmers potentially demanding drought subsidies.

I do wonder how many remote, rural, and regional Job Guarantee jobs could be created for young people (and others) doing land restoration work… I’m sure drones will reduce the amount of labour needed for tree planting, although I suspect there is a lot more labour intensive work that can be done aside from just dropping seeds from the sky.

(twisty) #29

It’s hard to farm uncleared land, unless you’re into firewood. Although it might be true it does seem a bit of a stretch, and a bit of a dumb reason for clearing.

Drone seeding skips a few steps in the process like raising and potting seedlings. All the labour intensive work is no longer needed. I’ve planted a lot of trees and wish I had drones …

(pip linney-barber) #30

It seems our current government has the opposite idea Twisty.


The Guardian this morning notes that 770,000 hectares of land has been cleared in the last five years in the GBR catchment zone. Good one Australia!

I guess if prayer is going to fix the drought there’s no reason it won’t save the reef as well.

(twisty) #31

They also say claims that Australia will meet its Kyoto targets are misleading because Australia claims emissions reductions based on reduced land clearing after 1990 - a year when clearing rates were unusually high.

… sigh

(twisty) #32

Just farming subsidies?

2018-19 Budget Estimate: $247.7 million

Would you rather eat or drive?

(Jesse Hermans) #33

All subsidies to for profit enterprises in general. Don’t take it personally lol…
Yeah I get that relative to agriculture there is a lot more corporate welfare on the books, and Australia has been a world leader in removing or suppressing agricultural subsidies.

My point was more that the subsidies to agricultural producers generally benefit encumbent landowning farmers rather than “farmers” per se. A new entrant who either buys farmland off an existing owner or becomes a tenant farmer does not take in the supposed benefits, given the subsidies capitalise into land rents and prices. So on this basis I don’t view them as a particularly good policy. Policy which is more important is environmental policy that ensures the quality of the farmland itself is protected. Whether or not an individual “farm business” fails is not the problem. Another farmer can always come in and buy the land and assets off the failed business. What’s important is that physical land fertility etc. is not destroyed from fracking, excessive land clearing etc. The financial situation of individual businesses is not the concern of the state.

This aside, from what I’ve heard farmers in Australia are heavily indebted a lot of the time, supposedly more so because they are less subsidised. So finding policies which increase/attract more equity investment through e.g Agricultural REITs might be a good way to help tackle that problem.*

*Disclaimer I own shares in RFF, an Agricultural REIT

(twisty) #34



(Jesse Hermans) #35

A way to deal with encumbent landowning farmers who bought farms (presumably with big mortgages) with implicit expectations of bail outs and subsidies, would be to grandfather subsidies. If subsidies and bail-outs were explicitly prohibited for all farms purchased and new leases signed after a certain future date, then future buyers and tenants of farms would capitalise this into their expectations and willingness to pay. People selling and leasing farms would cop some small losses from this initially. Then after 20 years or something you could apply the policy to everyone across the board.

The only problem is the policy position would have to be credible. And every drought that comes along usually the government capitulates and undoes any possible commitment. So we’re stuck like this it seems.

This probably calls for a second best solution: the creation of a national govt insurance fund for farmers - you only get subsidies and assistance if you pay the premiums (which could be set at cost on a not-for-profit basis). If we make implicit govt assistance explicit and conditional, it becomes far harder for ineffective farmers to justify bail-outs. What do you reckon @twisty ?

(twisty) #36

I like this


(twisty) #37

No policy ideas but close to home for me …

(twisty) #38

(Andrew Downing) #39

What are they going to do with all that money? Make it rain?


Better answer is to start actively engineering the climate more to our liking. Fixing drought welfare can only go so far. There are other examples of successful meddling on the macro scale, although admittedly they’re mostly dams and seabed reclamation.

Oh wait, I see you’re already way ahead of me. Neat. :relaxed:

I wonder if working towards converting some of the bight desert area into forest would help?