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Daft Coalition Policy #10: Unwarranted drought assistance

The move by the Abbott Government to provide $320m to farmers experiencing drought is terrible, not merely inconsistent, economic policy. The move undoes 5 years of reforms to drought assistance arrangements initiated by previous governments although the Gillard Government did some equally daft things. Australia experiences regular “droughts” as a part of its normal climate. […]

Cattle in national parks

Should government allow 25,000 cattle to starve or does it allow them to graze (until the next wet season) in protected nature reserves where they will certainly damage the natural environment? If this is an accurate way of posing the issues – I am unsure that the choices are as stark as this* – there […]

Drought aid fiasco

Australia has recently experienced what is possibly the worst drought in its history – the so-called Millennium Drought from 1997-2009. This ended with record rainfall around the country but now, apparently, drought is occurring again across large parts of the country – primarily in the south of the country. The Gillard government has stepped in […]

Murray Darling Basin Draft Plan

The MDB Draft plan was released today. It is complicated and long – I have done little more than glance through it. The length and complexity has not stopped irrigators and conservationists from attacking it from different perspectives. Extra water diverted to the environment to flush out the system and provide therapeutic flooding is set […]

Farmer attitudes to climate change

I have been doing work on agricultural adaptations to climate change. Farmers have dealt with climate change for thousands of years – indeed the development of modern agriculture 10,000 years ago has been linked to the moderation of global climatic conditions. If farmers are smart enough then the most important task for governments is to […]

World food crisis & global warming

Paul Krugman in the NYT makes powerful arguments. The reduction in the world’s wheat and other crops can be linked to a systematic pattern of adverse extreme climatic events.

Is this the way that eventual action on climate change will be driven? Through threats of rising global hunger and civil strife as a consequence […]

Flooded farmers demand more from fellow citizens

Flooded farmers in WA who have received $15,000 from the Federal Government and $150,000 in interest free loans say they are getting “bugger all” – they are outraged because they believe flooded Queenslanders are getting $25,000.

The art of community politicking in Australia? Scream loudly until you get a handout from other citizens. The farmers […]

BHP-Billiton to invest in agriculture?

Potash or potassium carbonate has several industrial uses but is, in the main, used in agriculture. According to the Wikipedia entry: “Potash is important for agriculture because it improves water retention, yield, nutrient value, taste, colour, texture and disease resistance of food crops. It has wide application to fruit and vegetables, rice, wheat and other […]

Agricultural product prices & new developing country demands

A standard story about farmers is that, given the relatively inelastic demands that prevail for their products, they are just too productive and innovative for their own good. Famers successfully introduce innovative agricultural techniques but the effects of these innovations are mainly to drive much lower prices, and hence lower farm incomes as a consequence. […]

Exempting cowburps & paying farmers not to provide them

Australia’s agricultural sector provides around 16% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. The Rudd Government originally planned to exempt this sector from its CPRS until 2015 but to revisit the decision in 2013. In a major cave-in Jelly-Back Rudd has brought this decision forward and permanently exempted this sector from the CPRS. To realize greenhouse gas […]

Farmers facing drought & climate change

A lot of my research efforts over the past year or so have been devoted to thinking about the implications of climate change for managing biodiversity. In part this reflects my ‘greenie’ orientation which I think is consistent with my general conservative political philosophy.

Gradually however I have come to see conservation issues as part […]

Climate change & macroeconomics

The RBA published today the best brief assessment of recent trends in Australia’s agricultural sector I have seen in a while. It is interesting how climate change issues are impacting on macroeconomic assessments of how well the Australian economy is going. They don’t actually mention climate change explicitly but the implications of it […]

Resource constraints & vegetarianism

Yesterday’s AFR contained a fascinating article by Chris Haskins, ‘Was Malthus right, after all’ reprinted from the UK magazine Prospect. I cannot find a complete online version but it is the original article is worth chasing up if you are interrested in world food supply issues and climate change. (Update: Reader ‘whyisitso’ found this link […]

What are the cockies thinking about?

I’ve bought the last couple of issues of The Weekly Times -the Melbourne-based ‘voice of the country’ – it has operated since 1869. More than anything I bought it to find out what country people are thinking about. It is an informative newspaper where most major stories are published online. What worries the cockies? I […]

Farmers kill endangered species & destroy wetlands of international significance

Two firms producing almonds and two almond plantation workers were charged over the shooting of more than 40 rare Regent parrots in Victoria’s northwest late last year. The birds were shot near Robinvale, on the Murray River 470km northwest of Melbourne. The regent parrot is a nationally-threatened species. The Eastern subspecies killed by these workers […]

Irrigators must experience tough love

This is stunning news. Irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin may be denied water allocations for the first time throwing into doubt up to $10 billion worth of agricultural production. This will push up food prices and reduce Australia’s GDP growth below 3%. According to PM Howard only town and urban water supplies in the MBD […]

Climate change and agriculture

I am developing an interest in the effects of climate change in the Murray-Darling Basin. What types of adaptation policies should be adopted in this important component of Australian agriculture? There is already an ‘action plan’ for addressing climate change issues generally in Australian agriculture. There is quite a bit of other literature. A global […]

Why rising agricultural land prices?

Why do rural land prices continue to grow strongly given the current drought, the secular decline in food prices and the evident difficulties posed by the prospects of global warming?An interesting article in today’s Australian Financial Review (subscription only) by Brian Toohey sets out some tentative explanations but none fully resolve the issue.

Agricultural outputs […]

The truth demolishes illusion

The Cole Inquiry has completely cleared the Federal Government and its civil service (including DFAT) of any role in AWB deceptions. These groups were not corrupt and did not ‘turn a blind eye’ to the illegalities AWB was claimed to be engaged in.A quick search around the blogs that have been severly critical of the […]


It is worthwhile to look at the Australian Bureau of Meterology website for its discussions of the current drought.

The map above shows rainfall for the 10 months to 30 October relative to historical experience. The dark red areas are areas where rainfall over this period is the lowest it has been in the […]