By Michael Giles
THE Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is coming to Gippsland on Thursday.
And it needs to be said from the outset that he has been consistently one of the best friends that the Australian dairy industry and its farmers could have had.
But he needs to make some calls this week on the present crisis.
We’re told by his advisors that he’ll be going to the electorates of Corangamite and Wannon, in the dairy belt west of Geelong, on Tuesday (today), to Indi and Murray in the state’s north on Tuesday or Wednesday and to Heyfield in Gippsland on Thursday.
They say he hasn’t made a decision about what he will do for the dairy farmers yet.
“He’ll talk to the dairy farmers, he’ll talk to the processors and the retailers to find out what can or can’t be done. Things are being mulled over and then a decision will be made,” said a spokesperson.
They wouldn’t want to “mull over things” for too long.
Today, the Rural Financial Counselling Service in Leongatha [call 5662 2566], funded by the Commonwealth Government, is being overrun by local dairy farmers needing assistant.
More people should to be tasked to that job immediately.
Why is it important that the politicians and department people move themselves? And you can include State Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford in that. Why should they assume a sense of urgency about this issue?
Because there is a deepening sense of dread within the dairy farming community that needs to be addressed immediately and providing enough rural counsellors, not only offering financial advice but also health and well-being advice and support, is a basic requirement.
And we shouldn’t wait for worried dairy farmers to come forward. Authorities should be contacting them.
Some years ago, a former State Government ran a highly successful project, using members of staff from a number of departments, to phone dairy farmers directly to advise them of the range of support services available and also simply to ask them how they were feeling and if they needed assistance.
The reasons for such action are obvious and given the present climate, certainly needed.
By all means, Mr Joyce, take time to get it right but a commitment to getting more counsellors on the ground in Gippsland should be made this week.