What a study in contrasts. Premier Bracks denies 138 tobacco farmers access to taxpayer largesse on the grounds that the decision to cancel their contract with BATA is "a commercial arrangement" (The Age, 27/9/2006). Meanwhile Federal Agriculture Minister McGauran promises that farmers hit by losses of $70M from frost-affected stone fruit crops are "likely to receive help" (The Age, 27/9/2006).
Frost is a very common event. As such, farmers' losses stem from their reluctance to insure their crops, not the frost itself. Isn't that decision to self-insure a "commercial arrangement" too? Or perhaps they just cannot buy insurance at a price they'd like? This is, after all, how Mr Howard justified the Federal Government bail-out of farmers in Queensland after Cyclone Larry hit their uninsured banana crops. Of course, farmers won't take out insurance when they know the Federal Government will step in and use taxpayer funds to underwrite their businesses.
This social agrarianism is further evinced in the state Nationals' bid for several billion dollars worth of taxbreaks and pork-barrelling under their proposed "Country First Fund". We should demand healthy, happy and prosperous rural communities. This means rural businesses should be viable without taxpayers picking up their insurance bills or letting them shirk their tax obligations. Conservative politicians have let farmers cash in on the rural gerrymander with debilitating long-term consequences.