Introduction by Elena Garcia
Regional communities across Australia are facing three intertwining crises: ecological, economic and social.
They have been left in a dire situation as a result of severe droughts, water speculation, catastrophic bushfires, COVID-19 shutdowns, and the assault by mining companies and corporate irrigators on First Nations lands, waterways and food bowl areas.
Despite this, federal and state governments have no genuine plan to assist the regions. Instead, the federal government is funding a supposed “gas-led recovery” that will only further destroy agricultural land and waterways while providing little to nothing in the way of jobs.
These governments also have no real answer for the millions of tons of fruit and vegetables going to waste due to the lack of workers to harvest them. This has contributed to rising food prices and farmers going broke or being pushed to further rely on destructive synthetic inputs and toxic chemicals in place of more labour-intensive agroecological methods.
Trade unions have been calling on the government to guarantee a minimum wage for horticultural workers, provide wage subsidies for struggling farmers, and organise COVID-safe transport and accommodation for those willing to move for work.
Instead, the federal government has ended JobKeeper, provided no financial subsidies for wages or the cost of transitioning to sustainable farming practices, and sought to deflect blame onto the unemployed.
With no jobs, rising house prices and basic services at breaking point, many people, in particular the young, are being forced to leave the regions. This is the opposite of what should be happening.
We need to encourage people to stay or move to regional Australia to help grow food; to care for catchments, waterways, soils and biodiversity; to minimise wildfire risks; and to get water and carbon back into the soil.
The Socialist Alliance has some clear, specific solutions for addressing the triple crisis facing regional Australia.
To this end it has put forward a regional COVID recovery plan based on guaranteeing a reliable income for all; funding environmental rejuvenation and the transition to sustainable farming; and greatly expanding access to community, transport, housing and basic services.
Only such an approach can begin to tackle the situation in regional Australia today.
Economic recovery requires a reliable income for all
Build community infrastructure and expand transport, housing and basic services