It’s an interesting world, and that is the understatement of the year. Our objective with the Global Farmer is to stay as far away as we can from domestic agricultural politics, but we do have something to say about agripolitics in Australia in another blog out soon.
The author of this article, Alan Matthews, is well worth following, if only to keep up with his dislike of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which causes Australia all kinds of problems at times. This article in particular caught my eye as it confirmed something I had heard over a cup of coffee at a board meeting of the Great Southern Community Housing Association.
For those who don’t know where the Great Southern is in Western Australia, it is Albany on the far south coast and north and east (at least we are getting out there) A big area geographically. Agriculture is its main industry and its becoming more of a retirement area as time goes by. More farmers retiring and many wanting to get out of the heat of the wheatbelt. It’s worth a Google for those who don’t know the area. We had been discussing that just in our area we have a need for 500 dwellings from 1 and 2 bedroom units to houses with three or four bedrooms, all for people who have been ‘qualified’. That means put through the financial wringer to make sure they haven’t got a South Sea Island tucked away somewhere.
We have the usual problems of rural towns in Australia these days, high youth unemployment being not the least. How on earth someone can write out the required number of job applications in a town this size, so that one can qualify for benefits, completely defeats me and regrettably is a demonstration of how far out of touch our politicians are.
Five hundred dwellings, representing over 1000 individuals, is a lot for people of proven need within an area of maybe a total population of about 60 thousand . Some who are destitute. The Feds say it’s a State problem and the State are busy pulling as much money out of everything they can, including housing. One billion for a footy stadium okay, money for housing? None. Got to get your priorities right, the homeless don’t represent many votes.
As we munched on lunch I mentioned that a manager of Food Bank, somewhere in Melbourne I think, but it’s not important, had been in the news saying they were desperate for food, the demand for food was increasing week on week and so too were the demographics. He went on to relate now that it was quite usual for the new SUV with all the trimmings to pull up and the driver, sometimes somewhat sheepishly other times quite brazenly. You get the drift, outwardly well off and comfortable people running out of money before pay day. I commented, perish the thought, that it was people who had just found a cheap (Foodbank sell by the kilo) source of food.
The local manager of Anglicare joined in and said the same thing was going on in Albany and inquiries had shown that those who went to Foodbank did have a genuine need. They had the car, the house, and as far as could be ascertained all they needed, but no money for food. Too much month at the end of the money.
All of the above has just added to the observation I have made a number of times, even down here in Albany, there ‘seems’ to be a lot of new cars on the road, particularly the 4 x 4 twin cab SUV type, with all the accessories imaginable. It’s a good thing no doubt but there are not many, or there do not seem to be as many, old cars on the road.
House prices, again even down here in Albany, are quite frightening and a trip to the local Harvey Norman or similar shows there is no shortage of the plastic fantastic.
Anyone with reasonable ability with a calculator can work out that to support all that ‘glitz’ there have to be two incomes. Take one income away, sickness, pregnancy, anything and trouble, some say bankruptcy is just 30 days away. Frightening.
We talk about food security in the future. We have clowns in Australia talking about the ‘Asian Century’ and Australia being the ‘Food Bowl of Asia’. Who ever thinks up these slogans should be pilloried for being the idiot they are. While at the same time we, obviously, as a society, have some serious questions to answer.
According to Foodbank, Anglicare and I gather a hundred and one other charities we have some major social questions that remain unanswered and more disturbingly unrecognised by governments and many government agencies.
Fo me, if there are an increasing number of people out there who are having difficulty putting food on the table for their families then we are no longer the ‘Lucky Country’. In fact we are no different than those you will read about in Alan Matthews’ story, and that is a sobering thought.
Europe’s common agricultural policy is broken – let’s fix it!