As I am writing my first View from the Paddock column, it is raining, and it feels good. I know this may not break the drought, and the financial stress will continue for many years, but it at least reminds us it can rain.
It has been a tough start to the new decade. Bushfires, drought, dairy woes, banana disease, and the fall-out from the novel coronavirus have tested rural Queensland.
Then the sports rorts saga saw chaos in the Nationals, a leadership challenge and a cabinet reshuffle. Thank goodness the party room did not re-elect Barnaby Joyce; he carries too much baggage and was neither a good Minister for Agriculture or leader of the Nationals.
The Nationals have a big job to do to rebuild trust if you listen to talk-back radio. Callers were angry and disappointed. Feelings of disenfranchisement started well before the Sports Rorts affair.
But this is a sideshow compared to the massive issues confronting Australia: addressing the outcomes of the catastrophic bushfire season, the ongoing drought, and most significant of all, addressing climate change.
We hear a lot about the city-country divide, but unless rural politicians and rural communities as a whole stand up and be real about climate change, the gap will continue to grow.
The onus is on rural communities to better tell their story to the broader community. I know many farmers are managing risk, changing land management strategies, using technology, and an innate understanding of the land to farm for the future.
But the challenge then is to be heard, a job made harder by cuts to regional media. Is there an opportunity to build on the goodwill of the nation?
Australians have held out their hand to those affected by the catastrophic bushfires and drought and dug deep to support the efforts of wildlife carers. We have never seen such goodwill before.
In her outstanding Australia Day address Grace Brennan, founder of #buyfromthebush, said, 'we don't want charity, we want investment.'
Now is the time to capitalise on this sentiment and let Australia know that agriculture is not a sunset industry. Sell the stories of a positive potentially vibrant industry and tell the politicians that represent regional areas to lift their game.
- Robin McConchie, rural radio identity