Don’t make farmers jump through hoops to get help
LOOK, any help during what is the worst drought in NSW in more than a half-century is better than a kick in the face from a cow.
But the $190 million in immediate drought relief measures announced by the prime minister on Sunday is too little too late.
The additional payment of $12,000 per couple - in two lump sum payments of $6000 each in September and next March - is the equivalent of half a week's feed for big operators.
Even the NSW transport subsidy announced a week ago by the state government as part of its new suite of measures is pretty inadequate.
"A lot of farmers, we're using that a week," farmer Anto White from Belltrees in the Upper Hunter tells me.
The other issue is how difficult the federal government makes it to access this kind of assistance, even if the asset testing has been lifted from $2.6 million to $5 million.
"Our poor guys, to get $6000, they have to list the size of their underpants," White says.
According to Brian Egan of Aussie Helpers, a charity for farmers, the sheer amount of paperwork to access the Farm Household Allowance means farmers have to spend about $2000 on an accountant to verify their figures every month.
"There's 105 questions - that's on the first step, then there's more after that," Egan said. "It's the sort of things they make you crawl through to get it … It's sneaky buggers, I tell you."
Compare the complex process of accessing such funding with how easily the government throws money at any other number of fashionable causes and you understand the frustration.
When Malcolm Turnbull had a private meeting with the six-member Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the government handed over a donation of almost half a billion dollars without the body so much as asking for it and no tenders called.
When pop star Rihanna tweeted Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in February, asking them to help the Global Partnership for Education earlier this year, Bishop's department almost immediately coughed up a $90 million pledge to support the education of foreign children.
The total revenue for the commonwealth-funded Australia Council for the Arts is set to exceed $200 million this year; this is the same body that gave a $20,000 grant to an artist to make people yawn in an inner-Sydney gallery, a sum more likely to make you want to vomit.
And look at the kinds of academic research we fund: $468,000 for the Australian National University to "investigate warfare in the ancient Tongan state through a study of earthwork fortifications" and $340,000 for the University of Wollongong to study how "socially engaged art" can "catalyse new dialogue between farmers, scientists, environmentalists and policy makers" on the Great Barrier Reef.
Whatever that means.
Meantime, our farmers - the backbone of this country, the source of the very food on our tables - are crying out for help.
We need to do a better job of looking after them.
Caroline Marcus is the host of Saturday Edition and Sunday Edition on Sky News.