Well cry me a river. If it wasn’t bad enough that the arch conservative broadcaster, Alan Jones, got the tissues out to grab a few headlines this week, the incoherent Pauline Hanson followed suit with a sobfest on Friday.
Yes, that’s the same Alan Jones who’s been in a spot of bother most recently for suggesting that a strong, outspoken woman should have a sock shoved down her throat, and the same Pauline Hanson who’s courting the angry white male vote by claiming that women lie to manipulate the family law system.
Yet both political gutter-fighters reached for the hanky this week, not only to draw your attention to their sensitive side, but to suggest they’ve reached breaking point on an important issue that’s vexing them.
How troublesome could this terrible thing be, to reduce these steely pillars of right-wing fury into a blubbering mess?
Could it be that they’ve suddenly been gripped by the enormity of the domestic and family violence epidemic that is sweeping through our nation like wildfire? Not likely. Ms Hanson prefers to emphasise the fake statistics that claim the distressingly high rate of male suicide is due to family breakdown. (It might be, but we just don’t know. No statistics are collected on the ‘causes’ of suicide).
Perhaps they’re anguished at the plight of the two Australian-born girls left isolated and distraught on Christmas Island with their asylum seeker parents while the Government fights to be rid of them. Not Ms Hanson, she doesn’t appear to have said a peep about the Biloela family, although Mr Jones, to his credit, has said their treatment is unbelievably disgusting and disgraceful.
Are they concerned, then, about the parlous state of the economy, and the fact that the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and his Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, are trying to keep it afloat with plastic straws, fishing line and a balloon filled with wishful thinking until their mythical surplus is delivered next May? Nope.
Maybe it’s that they’ve finally consulted the scientists and realised the existential threat that faces the world from climate change? Nope, nope, nope. Ms Hanson says the climate emergency is made up, and Mr Jones claims it’s a hoax.
So what’s the big deal? Well, farmers have become the latest political accessory and everyone wants one – I mean, wants to show that they care about their plight. Why? Because farmers are no longer rusted-on Nationals voters and their support could be available to the person/party who cares the most (or is the highest bidder, which essentially is the same thing).
How better to say ‘I care’ than to broadcast your blubber to the radios and televisions of those very same farmers. You could also castigate the PM for not shovelling cash into failing farm businesses, as Mr Jones did this week. Or set up another inquisitorial Senate charade, as Ms Hanson did this week, to express care for her niche subset of embattled primary producer – Australia’s dairy farmers.
This is not to say that a lot of Aussie farmers aren’t doing it tough. Some have been dealing with a crippling dry spell for many years. But as the head of the farmers’ peak representative body indicated this week, it’s not the first drought and it won’t be the last. Australia’s last ‘worst’ drought occurred less than 20 years ago.
Given we’ve known for more than a century that Australia is the ‘sunburnt’ country, a land of drought and flooding rains, it’s well and truly time for the sector most affected by the ravages of nature to adequately prepare. And yes, for governments to help it do so.
The National Farmer’s Federation’s president, Fiona Simson, said this week it was critically important that, as the sector endures the hardships of this drought, “we take steps to ensure we are better prepared for the next.”
“Until now, as a country, we have failed to establish a comprehensive, national policy that guides us in effectively doing this.”
The NFF aims to change this with a national drought policy that it released this week.
“We need to have a different approach,” said Ms Simson, stressing that “we cannot find ourselves in the next drought in the same circumstances that we are now, where people have no certainty about the sorts of policies that governments are going to deliver.”
“While this National Drought Policy comes too late to help those managing this drought,” said Ms Simson, “the NFF is determined to see that we don’t find ourselves, once again, without a plan for drought.”
This is a wise, if long overdue, move by the NFF to show the nation’s political leaders how to show they actually do care about Australian farmers.
Now it’s up to the nation’s three levels of government, composed of varying political hues, to find time from their endless political bickering to work together on making the nation ‘drought ready’ before the next worst drought arrives.
Then there will be no need for anyone to resort to crocodile tears.