Bad management

If you need help, read the fine print

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The sad thing about media headlines is that they lack the fine print. One would hope that journalists and media networks would stop allowing politicians to read those lovely media releases about pledging help, without having a random farmer on standby for comment.

Here is a letter I received after I posted this article about donations to drought-affected and flood-affected Queensland farmers.

Dear Jonar

I would love to chat to someone about the hype that city people are told about the government assistance provided by the govt to farmers and small businesses affected by the flood.

The story is that primary producers will each receive a $5000 grant and a possible further $20000 grant to help with repairs due to flood damage and a range of other emergencies. These farmers may also apply to a $200,000 low interest loan to get their farm back up and running. It sound great doesn’t it. I wish somebody would read out the fine print on the news so city folk don’t think that every farmer automatically receives these generous grants. We lived through a ten year drought and heard a lot of stories about drought relief but we never saw so much as a bail of hay for our cows. After the flood we asked about the possibility that we can access some of the great promised funds to help replace an irrigation pump that was destroyed in this national disaster. We didn’t ask about repairing the kilometres of fences or the miles of farm tracks washed away in the floods, just the essential irrigation pump. Here’s what the generous Qld govt wanted to know. Had we earned more money away from the farm in the last financial year than we earned from farm produce – the fruit trees? The honest answer was YES we had, as nearly all farmers in the district would have to say. It doesn’t matter if you earned $100 or $1000 what matters is that you earned more money off-farm. If your farm has been in drought for the last 10 years then any self respecting person had to work off-farm to allow them to feed their family, and to buy fertilisers and pesticides to keep the farm going for another season. That apparently disqualifies us from receiving any assistance now when we have been hit by the worst flood in memory.

Very sad indeed.

Somebody is getting grants and somebody is getting assistance I’m sure, but spare a thought for the millions who struggle quietly and because they do, they are not entitled to any help.

I wonder where all those donations that kind hearted people collect go! Who qualifies for those? Maybe it is best for anyone who wishes to help, to bypass the whole silly system and give what they can directly to someone in the next street or the next town. Donate goods directly to those who need it. Give them your spare telly or your bar fridge. If you’re a plumber reconnect their plumbing, and if you are an electrician check their circuits. If you have a bakery send some bread. If you have a restaurant put some dinner vouchers in their letter boxes. There must be a better way to reach out than drop anonymous money in boxes and wonder where it all goes to.

As for the govt assistance … well it sounds good in a press release, but when they are really pressed don’t expect them to release any of it.

P.S. During the flood we lost our boat. It was down by the river near the pump. In this district there is an irrigation pump and a small fishing boat dotted every few metres all along the river bank. Our boat must be somewhere down stream but how come we didn’t end up with someone else’s boat from up stream? Where do all the boats go? Is there one spot way down at the end of the river which is now full of boats? Will someone down there have a huge garage sale this weekend selling dinghies?

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