REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: Are we now channelling Utopia?

Voice of Real Australia is a regular newsletter from Australian Community Media, which has journalists in every state and territory. Sign up here to get it by email, or here to forward it to a friend. Today's newsletter is written by journalist Jamieson Murphy from the Northern Daily Leader in Tamworth, NSW.

Exactly where are we, quiet Australians? Photo: Shutterstock

Exactly where are we, quiet Australians? Photo: Shutterstock

WATCHING the TV show Utopia as a journalist, and I imagine the same as a public servant, is both painfully hilarious and alarmingly accurate.

The ABC comedy lampoons the Australian public service sector and the writers have no shortage of inspiration.

The art imitating life scenario is well-received in the nation's capital where The Canberra Times recaps are particularly well-received,. Check Doug Dingwall's most recent one here.

The federal government recently announced $100 million in additional drought funding, including $1 million grants to 13 councils impacted by drought.

However, the Victorian council of Moyne Shire has declined the funding, because it's not in drought. In fact, it's currently experiencing one of its best ever farming seasons after plenty of rain.

Moyne Shire councillor and Woolsthorpe farmer Colin Ryan told the Warrnambool Standard he was in disbelief to learn $1 million was heading down south.

"How are we in drought when we're sending hay up to our northern farmers who are living in dust bowls and can barely afford to feed their cattle or themselves?" he queried.

TOO LIFE LIKE: The acting of Anthony Lehmann and Rob Sitch in Utopia is all too accurate.

TOO LIFE LIKE: The acting of Anthony Lehmann and Rob Sitch in Utopia is all too accurate.

Which begs the question, did the government do its homework?

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the decision was made off weather data collected by the Bureau of Meteorology. But after the embarrassing funding rejection, he's ordered a review of that data.

That was Monday afternoon. By Tuesday morning, Twitter told us that the Department of Infrastructure had "rerun" the data and the 13 councils involved were indeed eligible for funding. OK then.

Sounds like this one has some more time to run ...

Meanwhile, some NSW council areas in drought have missed out. Hunter MP and opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said LGAs in his electorate had been "snubbed", despite the state government's drought maps indicating half of Singleton is in drought while Muswellbrook is mostly in drought.

While writing an article about a "dam miscommunication" recently, I found myself wondering if the writers of Utopia perused regional newspapers for story material.

IT'S DRY: Farmer John Hooke at his property in the NSW Hunter Valley town of Dungog. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers.

IT'S DRY: Farmer John Hooke at his property in the NSW Hunter Valley town of Dungog. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers.

NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey says she never got a response from the Deputy Prime Minister about a letter she had sent which requested a portion of federal funding committed to building Tamworth's Dungowan Dam ($23 million from $75 million in total), be redirected towards more studies to get the project shovel ready.

However, a spokesperson for Michael McCormack said the Commonwealth had been "advised" the NSW government would formally make a request, but had not at that point received one.

What that means in plain English, is the federal government received the letter and did not consider it a "formal request", but rather a notification that a formal request was pending, and was still waiting for the NSW Water Minister to send through a formal request.

I am formally requesting the ministers pick up the phone and talk to each other.

Jamieson Murphy,

Journalist, The Northern Daily Leader

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