By Spencer D Gear PhD
Many farmers are struggling to find or buy feed to keep their stock alive in Australia (Photo supplied: Edwina Robertson)
That was the headline of an ABC News: Rural (2018) article online. But something was missing from that headline. I don’t expect to get the missing link from ABC News or current affairs’ programs these days. What is absent?
ABC Rural reported again:
Farmers across New South Wales and Queensland are calling it the worst drought in living memory. Many are facing ruin and say it is time for their city cousins to acknowledge the disaster (ABC News Rural: regional reporters 2018).
This story pointed to the situation as seen by the farmers:
I’d really like people in the city to remember us, see us, hear us, know that we’re still here.
Thin cattle search for food near Coonabarabran in north-western New South Wales (ABC News: Rural, 2018: Luke Wong)
In the Fairfax Brisbane Times, 14 August 2018, it was reported that Vaughan Johnson (resident of Longreach and former LNP politician) and Mark O’Brien, [as] newly appointed drought commissioners said ‘the “critical” situation facing farmers is the worst that Johnson has seen in his 71 years.
The drought commissioners were appointed to advise the State government on the best way to spend the $9 million drought relief package that was fast-tracked in August 2018.
“I have never seen such a depressed economy, such depressed people as we are witnessing now,” Johnson told ABC radio on 14 August 2018. He said it was worse than critical as the feed situation in the central west was ‘zilch’ and they were now into the seventh year of drought. He ‘urged anybody wanting to help to donate cash, or visit affected towns’”. (Flatley 2018).
I enthusiastically support the efforts of governments and people of Australia to help drought-stricken farmers outback in giving money, sending stock feed or visiting these outback towns and farms.
ABC News Rural covered this story and told of Genevieve Hawkins who runs a cattle station near Aramac, western Qld. There, ‘2017 was the driest year in 38 years of records’. Ms Hawkins appeal was: ‘It’s just relentless, you don’t sleep because you can’t stop thinking about it…. I’d really like people in the city to remember us, see us, hear us, know that we’re still here’ (ABC News: Rural, regional reporters 2018).
I consider there is a critical factor missing from this analysis. I don’t expect the mass media to deal with it because it concerns values and goes against the grain of our secular society.
Peter Westmore in News Weekly (August 2018) raised the issue of one missing dynamic. He referred to farmers producing the wheat, wool, cotton and beef we eat who actually work for nothing. This would be ‘utterly intolerable’ in any other part of society. However, it is ‘apparently acceptable for rural Australia.
Westmore’s assessment is that it is not discussed in city media and rarely heard on country radio or TV programs. The media highlight the lower income levels in rural areas and high levels of psychiatric illness and suicides. However, ‘the deeper causes are never examined’, says Westmore.
What were the ‘deeper causes’ Westmore spoke about? He pointed to government financial support and helping strategies from the banking sector. He linked the financial pressure to psychiatric illnesses in farming families that no amount of money for counselling will solve (Westmore 2018).
I agree with these initiatives, but they still miss a strong factor linked to droughts and other disasters in Australia.
This is how the Darling Anabranch (lower Murray-Darling basin) in far western NSW looked from the air during the big drought in 2018.
(Courtesy ABC News: Rural)
This is how it looked in flood in 2010:
(The Great Darling Anabranch in flood, December 2010, courtesy Wikipedia)
I’m not sure he knew he was so close to hitting the target of dealing with the grim need for farmers, their animals and produce during this ghastly drought.
ABC News: Rural reported this in an interview:
“We’ve purchased about $100,000 worth of hay but I don’t know if I can buy any more because it’s too dear and it could be another $40,000 for freight on top of that,” he said.
(Photo courtesy ABC News: Rural 2018)
The sheep farmer pointed to the needed solution, but his statement had one word too many. His words were as close as a cricket ball that nearly got the edge of the bat and a nick to the keeper or the slips. ABC News: Rural (2018) reported:
[This sheep farmer] has had to significantly de-stock, while watching ewes abandon lambs.
“The poor little fellas have been trampled,” he says.
(Photo courtesy ABC News: Rural 2018)
“But there’s not much we can do about it.”
He says money for bores would be handy, as the wait for rain and for the Darling River to fill drags on.
3. “But there’s not much we can do about it.”
Really? In my view, there is one word too many in that statement. Which single word needs to be removed?
What should we add to the excellent ABC News: Rural (2018) headline?
That’s a cry for city cousins to dig deep to help people during the big drought. I’m 100% behind that cry for help and have given to the drought appeal. But there’s an essential component absent from that plea.
I ask some essential questions that I hope will open you to what we Australians can do about the drought, floods and fires. I’m not talking only of food and water for the animals and financial and mental health support for the farmers and their families.
I warn you. What I’m about to say is not politically correct news and there could be journalists in the mass media who will scoff at my analysis of the cause and solution of the drought crisis.
One drought-stricken farmer said,
‘I’m sick of this damn drought’
(ABC News: Rural 2018).
Note: This is a 5-part series of which this is the 1st part. It is connected to the next article: This deep-seated problem brings ruin to the outback and to the Australian nation
 Shared on Facebook by Edwina Robertson, in Rachel Carbonell 2018. Drought relief: The dos and don’ts of helping Australian farmers and rural communities with donations. ABC News Rural, Brisbane Qld (online), 1 August. Available at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2018-08-01/drought-dos-and-donts-of-donations/10057862 (Accessed 14 March 2019).
 ABC News: Rural, regional reporters 2018. The big dry: ‘See us, hear us, help us’, 30 July. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2018-07-29/the-big-dry-see-us-hear-us-help-us/10030010 (Accessed 2 August 2018).
 The original said, ‘Tuesday’.
 Christine Flatley 2018. Queensland drought ‘critical’: commissioner. Jimboomba Times (online), 14 August. Available at: https://www.jimboombatimes.com.au/story/5586112/qld-drought-critical-commissioner/ (Accessed 14 August 2018). Jimboomba is located in Logan City, S.E. Qld., Australia.
 ‘News Weekly has been published continuously by the National Civic Council since 1941, and was originally called Freedom. The National Civic Council (NCC) is an organisation which seeks to shape public policy on cultural, family, social, political, economic and international issues of concern to Australia’. Available at: http://newsweekly.com.au/about.php (Accessed 1 October 2018).
 ABC Rural Reporters 2018, op. cit.
 Wikipedia 2017. Great Darling Anabranch (online). Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Darling_Anabranch (Accessed 14 August 2018).
 The original stated, ‘near Pooncarie’.
 The original included his name as Phil Wakefield.
 The original stated, ‘Mr Wakefield’.
 ABC News: Rural (2018).
Copyright © 2019 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 May 2019.