Aussies battered by fires and floods

MUCH has already been reported with regard to the bush fires crisis sweeping many parts of Victoria.

Peter Gladwell

MUCH has already been reported with regard to the bush fires crisis sweeping many parts of Victoria.

The police have arrested and charged a 38-year-old, a local man from Morwell, with deliberately lighting fires in the South Eastern part of the State near Churchill and causing the deaths of 21 people.

This part of Australia is desperately in need of rain to help quell a number of fires burning out of control in many parts north, north east and south east of Melbourne.

Thus far 181 people have lost their lives in this country's worst peace time disaster and that number is expected to rise as police and fire officials gain access to burned-out areas until now inaccessible.

The number of houses lost has climbed to over 1,600 along with hundreds of vehicles, sheds, farm buildings, fodder, stock, grapes in vineyards, fences, plantation and native forest, countless native animals and pasture.

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The problem facing many farmers has been to first of all try and move their stock away from ravaged areas into stock yards and now to gain access to tons of fodder being donated from around the state and nation.

It will take months for these pasture areas to recover and the longer we have to go without decent rainfall the longer it will take for the recovery.

The effect of these fires will be felt in the long term in the economy, with prices of certain foods rising and diminishing availability of funds for people to rebuild.

Add to this the devastation caused by months of heavy rain, cyclonic wind and horrific floods in 62% of Queensland and the picture confronting all Australians is even worse.

Apart from property losses and damage up there sugar losses are estimated to be in the region of 20 -25% of the entire crop, around 20million tons, while tropical fruit and grain losses are staggering. But some producers remain positive and feel all this extra water has rejuvenated dry river beds, dams and soil for the coming season.

Remaining with agriculture Victorian farmers are struggling to deal with aftermath of plummeting milk prices this year.

One of the state's major milk producers, Murray Goulburn, has declared that its opening milk price package, announced last June, will fall by more than 13 percent from this month.

This will be the second time in the past 35 years the company has reduced its opening price and the New Zealand owned Fonterra along with other processors are likely to follow with similar cuts.

The reduction is a consequence of the deterioration of world dairy market prices as a result of the global financial crisis (we haven't noticed any cuts in our shopping bills!).

Gippsdairy has estimated this price cut will cost Gippsland Dairy farmers A$94 million in direct milk payments with a flow on effect of A$235 million to the local economy.

Already a number of dairy farmers have left the land because of rising costs in feed, fuel and fertiliser this could increase those who remain undecided to follow suit. I think with these fires causing added concern the housewife can expect milk prices and other dairy products to rise in our supermarkets over the coming weeks together with the prices of fruit and vegetables.

As we know the world over supermarket chains are quick to react when it comes to profits dictated by supply and demand regardless of rising unemployment and the tightening of purse strings among ordinary folk.

Heading today's news is the resignation of Julie Bishop, the opposition Liberal party's deputy leader and shadow treasurer. Sources suggest she was removed by disgruntled party members.

Her post will be taken over by Joe Hocking while Bishop, having the privilege of deputy leader, has the pick of portfolios to choose from, has elected to take on foreign affairs.

What amazes most Australians is a minister who has obviously blundered over her role as shadow treasurer should be given the role of shadow minister for foreign affairs. This is a position that holds a great deal of responsibility and for someone who failed in one job to be given another to mess up doesn't sit too well with the public.

How many private organisations would sack a managing director and appoint him to another directorship? Is it any wonder we don't trust our politicians?