How Than Shall We Pray

One of my favorite sayings is, “Why worry when you can pray.”  I know that the Bible says, “Don’t worry,” more times than it says, “Don’t steal,” and we all know what stealing is. Prayer is how w...

Dr. Robert Owens - avatar Dr. Robert Owens

We live in a world of upheaval. So why aren't today's protests leading to revolutions?

Today's protests are driven more by anger over social and economic inequity than deep-seated grievances against a regime.Orlando Barria/EPAWe live in a world of violent challenges to the status quo, f...

Peter McPhee, Emeritus professor, University of Melbourne - avatar Peter McPhee, Emeritus professor, University of Melbourne

How Hitler memes made their way around the world and into the Fair Work Commission courtroom

Some argue that a parody of a fictional scene is not the same thing as comparing someone to the real historical figure. IMDBIn September, the Fair Work commission rejected an unfair dismissal claim by...

Benjamin Nickl, Lecturer in International Comparative Literature and Translation Studies, University of Sydney - avatar Benjamin Nickl, Lecturer in International Comparative Literature and Translation Studies, University of Sydney

Extinction of ice age giants likely drove surviving animals apart

Extinction of the woolly mammoth and other megafauna caused surviving animals to go their separate ways.Wikimedia As the world grapples with an extinction crisis, our large mammals are among the most ...

Aniko Blanka Toth, Postdoctoral Fellow, Macquarie University - avatar Aniko Blanka Toth, Postdoctoral Fellow, Macquarie University

Lack of information on apartment defects leaves whole market on shaky footings

The litany of defects, poor building standards and regulatory failures has serious implications for apartment owners, occupiers and buyers alike. Fears of a loss of confidence in the sector have unfor...

Martin Loosemore, Professor of Construction Management, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Martin Loosemore, Professor of Construction Management, University of Technology Sydney

Veterans have poorer mental health than Australians overall. We could be serving them better

A career in the Australian Defence Force (ADF), or the armed forces in any country, can be rewarding, but also demanding. Challenges include the rigorous training, frequent moves, and maintaining soci...

Nicole Sadler, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne - avatar Nicole Sadler, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Melbourne

A collapsing star in a distant galaxy fired out some of the most energetic gamma rays ever seen

The HESS telescopes in Namibia are on the alert for high-energy gamma rays.HESS Collaboration / Clementina MedinaThe brightest fireworks in the universe are called gamma-ray bursts and are created by ...

Gavin Rowell, Associate Professor in High Energy Astrophyics, University of Adelaide - avatar Gavin Rowell, Associate Professor in High Energy Astrophyics, University of Adelaide

Buttigieg surges to clear lead in Iowa poll, as Democrats win four of five US state elections

A recent poll has Pete Buttigieg pulling ahead of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren for the Democratic presidential election.AAP/EPA/Gary HeTwo and a half months before the February 3 Iowa Democratic cau...

Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne - avatar Adrian Beaumont, Honorary Associate, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Melbourne

It's hard to breathe and you can't think clearly – if you defend your home against a bushfire, be mentally prepared

If you live in a bushfire-prone area, you’ll likely have considered what you will do in the event of a bushfire. The decision, which should be made well in advance of bushfire season, is whether...

Danielle Every, Senior Research Fellow in social vulnerability and disasters, CQUniversity Australia - avatar Danielle Every, Senior Research Fellow in social vulnerability and disasters, CQUniversity Australia

Climate change will make fire storms more likely in southeastern Australia

Temperatures across many regions of Australia are set to exceed 40℃ this week, including heatwaves forecast throughout parts of eastern Australia, raising the spectre of more devastating bushfir...

Giovanni Di Virgilio, Research associate, UNSW - avatar Giovanni Di Virgilio, Research associate, UNSW

To feed the world in 2050 we need to build the plants that evolution didn't

Synthetic biology can help agriculture adapt to a changing world.ShutterstockWe need to revolutionise agriculture in the next 30 years. In 2050 we may have almost 10 billion people to feed. Farmland i...

Claudia Vickers, Director, Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform, CSIRO - avatar Claudia Vickers, Director, Synthetic Biology Future Science Platform, CSIRO

Innovation competitions are the next big thing. Here are 8 ways to make them work

Leonardo da Vinci sketches. He invented the pulley, the parachute and the water-powered mill. None were patented.ShutterstockFor centuries, human beings have relied on patents to encourage and protect...

Olga Kokshagina, Researcher - Innovation & Entrepreneurship, RMIT University - avatar Olga Kokshagina, Researcher - Innovation & Entrepreneurship, RMIT University

Big men do cry: cricketers are leading the charge for inclusive masculinity

Rising Australian cricket star Will Pucovski has recently taken the surprising step of asking notto be considered for selection for the national men’s team ahead of the First Test against Pakist...

Keith Parry, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, University of Winchester - avatar Keith Parry, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, University of Winchester

Make the study of economics more sexy : Chris Bowen

Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen, who has previously been shadow treasurer and before that treasurer, wants the study of economics made “more sexy” to attract more students, especially women...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

There are two basic components to the Morrison government’s latest A$1 billion package response to the drought affecting large parts eastern Australia. One part involves extra subsidies to farmers and farm-related business. The other involves measures to create or upgrade infrastructure in rural areas.

Unfortunately, most funds will be misdirected and the response is unlikely to secure the long-term prosperity of regional and rural communities. This is a quick fix to a political problem, appealing to an important constituency. But it misses the point, again, about the emerging economics of drought.

Hitting the political target

The bulk of the A$1 billion package is allocated to a loan fund. The terms of the ten-year loans are more generous than what has been offered in the past. They are now interest-free for two years, with no requirement to start paying back the principal till the sixth year.

Farmers will be able to borrow up to A$2 million. In addition, loans of up to A$500,000 will also be available to small businesses in drought-affected towns.

Read more: Government sets up concessional loan scheme for drought-hit small businesses

Because recipients are not having to pay the full cost, these loans are in practice a form of subsidy.

Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, with farmer David Gooding on Gooding’s property near Dalby, Queensland, on September 27, 2019. Dan Peled/AAP

Subsidies are used by government to make more people undertake an activity than would otherwise be the case. In this case the government is offering a subsidy to keep farmers and small businesses owners doing what they’ve been doing, even though from an economic point of view this might not be very wise at all.

The question that should be asked is: “do we want more or fewer people to be involved in a farming activity that is vulnerable to drought?”

Most farming in Australia is completely reliant on rainfed crops and pastures. Rainfall is already highly variable. All the indicators from climate science is that rain will be even more unreliable in the future.

Read more: The science of drought is complex but the message on climate change is clear

In addition, the agricultural industries currently drought affected are not just at the whims of rainfall. These industries are constantly changing and being affected by new technologies and market forces.

For most agricultural produce the key market force is price. Sure, some farms and farmers can carve out niche markets, but most farm businesses depend on producing at lowest cost. Increasingly, the farms that survive in a highly competitive global environment do this by exploiting economies of scale. Big farms are thus more profitable than small ones in the good times (such as when it rains); and during the tough times (such as during drought) they have more resources and deeper reserves to ride it out.

Ultimately, this means successful farms are continually getting bigger and small farmers are getting squeezed out.

Read more: Just because both sides support drought relief, doesn’t mean it's right

The data also support the view that the farmers who survive and are simultaneously exposed to drought ultimately become even more profitable, because of what they learnt about managing in a difficult environment.

This is not to argue drought is a good thing for any farm, but it does raise a serious question about any government policy that effectively encourages more people to keep doing something when global and technological forces would point to it being unsustainable.

So what’s the point?

The second component of the Morrison government’s relief response involves directing about A$500 million from existing regional infrastructure funds into building roads and other things into affected communities.

While many will welcome this on top of the the extension of loans to small business in country towns, the policy detracts from the serious questions that confront rural and regional communities.

The economics of agriculture has flow-on effects to towns, but it would be wrong to think all are impacted in the same way.

Read more: Helping farmers in distress doesn't help them be the best: the drought relief dilemma

As a general rule, when farmers sell up, they tend to leave from the small communities first. The upshot is that small communities get smaller, older and poorer as those least mobile are left behind. These people also generally require more, not less, public support. Mid-size communities tend to level out, while continuing to age. Large regional centres tend to grow and prosper.

The point is that each community requires different things from government. Genuine public goods like roads, health services and education are desperately needed and undersupplied in many cases. Providing cash to a few select businesses and grading a gravel road in this situation belies the complexity of the long-term challenges and fails to address serious issues.

An elderly retiree in a rural town might well ask why their local road or bridge is only upgraded during a drought. Surely, government should focus on providing legitimate public goods for the long term, regardless of the weather.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/australias-drought-relief-package-hits-the-political-spot-but-misses-the-bigger-point-126583