No Steven Joyce, farmer depression is not “just business”

The National government’s defense of struggling farmers and deteriorating rural communities has reached its final straw. On TVNZ’s Q+A Steven Joyce justified the peril of farmers as “just business”. Right-wing blogger Matthew Hooton concurred, and even went as far to say that, after a brief period of supernormal profits for farmers, the decline in their incomes was “a good thing” and that his worst fear would be the National government supplying financial support.

Nice one, Matthew. Supporting vulnerable people in times of crisis. It seems just so typical of a Nationalite to see that as a worst case scenario. Surely after the many decades that rural communities have supported this country, they have earned that financial support now that they’re hurting. But Matthew will probably have his wish commanded – after all this is the government that paid off millions in the Saudi sheep bribe.

We all know the government is totally in the wrong here. This is New Zealand and farming, (most notably dairy farming) is in our blood. Many New Zealanders will have memories of living on a farm or going to one in he summer months. They have always been a part of us both socially and economically, and very few will take the side of Joyce and Hooton and watch these communities continue to slide from recession into depression.

In fact, one source told ONE News that farmers are now regularly telling him they are contemplating suicide.

That isn’t “just business”. That is inhumane and deplorable. Yes, the nature of economics is that prices for goods will go up and down as demand rises and falls, but the latter scenario is not a justification for human suffering.

And of course the government’s refusal to see the dairy crisis for what it is isn’t just impacting on small communities – its damaging our economy. Top economists, some of whom have spoken to the NZ Herald in recent months, say the fall in dairy prices is one of the leading reasons as to why our economy could be headed for recession.

Instead of financially aiding farmers, the government says it hopes other markets will pick up and divert New Zealand from a serious economic downturn. Bit with coal down the gurgler and the government’s failure to diversify the economy (despite relentless professional advice) New Zealand has no other reliable foot to stand on.

Indeed, the recent economic forecast points to a new unemployment rate of 6.5%, which would send us soaring over the US (5.5%), the deeply troubled Australian (6.3%) and the British (5.4%) rates. And of course the 6.5% estimate includes economically (and government focused) areas like Auckland. The unemployment rates in the regions are far higher and paint a much darker picture of our economic welfare.

The government needs to stop selling us this silly idea that we are somehow in an economic boomtime when so many New Zealanders, particularly those who we rely on, are performing so poorly financially. We can continue to ignore this looming crisis and ensure the recession so many economists are now predicting, or we can help our rural communities. Financial aid would be welcomed, but if this threat of recession is teaching us anything it is that New Zealand must act to diversify its economy sooner – not later. Sooner, to save our rural communities. Sooner, to ensure that no more families fall into poverty. Sooner, to keep New Zealanders in work.

If you’re a farmer dealing with depression there are serves to help you. Visit http://www.depression.org.nz/rural  or call 0800 111 757. 

B. Morgan 

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2 thoughts on “No Steven Joyce, farmer depression is not “just business”

  1. Well said!

    This is much like a re-run of the 1930s, with a right wing govt that is bereft of ideas and is so deeply wedded to their own orthodoxy, that they are totally incapable of finding any solution.

    What is now needed are some RADICAL changes, similar in scope to the extremely successful changes introduced by the First Labour Govt from 1935. Starting with a complete reversal of the failed experiment of neoliberalism and most of the so-called “reforms”, which have FAILED most of our citizens, and benefitted only a small minority.

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