Germany pledges up $A536m in drought aid

German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner.The German government will launch a special aid program worth up to 340 million euros ($A536 million) to help farmers after this summer’s drought massively damaged harvests.

Agriculture minister Julia Kloeckner said she had agreed special federal government drought aid of between 150 million and 170 million euros with German finance minister Olaf Scholz.

Along with additional aid from German regional state governments, farms should receive a total of about 340 million euros in aid, Kloeckner said in a statement.

The association of German farmers DBV has called for around one billion euros in special aid to help farmers after huge crop losses this summer.

German crops wilted under the highest summer temperatures since 1881 and prolonged dryness. EU wheat prices hit five-year highs in August on concern about supplies.

Germany’s 2018 grains harvest is likely to fall by about 22 per cent this year after the heatwave and drought, the DBV said on Wednesday.

Dairy farmers were especially suffering from reduced crops of feed grains, straw and hay, the DBV said. Dairy farmers were being forced to reduce their herds because of high feed costs, sending more cattle to slaughter.

“I declare this year’s period of dryness to be a weather event with a national impact,” Kloeckner said.

If the existence of farms is threatened, they will qualify for special aid, Kloeckner said. It was believed that the existence of about 10,000 farms was under threat, or about one in every 25 in Germany.

In neighbouring Denmark, the drought combined with low pork prices, is expected to trigger losses in the country’s agricultural sector not seen since the 2008 financial crisis.

The losses could reach almost eight billion Danish crowns $US1.23 billion ($A1.68 billion) this year, according to research institute SEGES, part of the Danish Agriculture & Food Council lobby group.

On its own, the impact of the drought is seen at around six billion crowns, it added.

At the beginning of the year, SEGES forecast a small profit for the sector.

“There is no doubt the drought has impacted so many farmers, that there will be more bankruptcies,” SEGES economist Klaus Kaiser told Reuters.

Denmark’s harvest of wheat, barley and rye could fall by about 40 per cent from previous years, the lobby group has previously forecast.

Liberals try to force Turnbull challenge

Health Minister Greg Hunt says he hasn’t seen a letter calling for another party room meeting.A small group of Liberal MPs want Malcolm Turnbull to call a party room meeting to face a leadership showdown with Peter Dutton on Thursday.

They circulated a letter on Wednesday night calling for the meeting, which would then lead to a spill of the leadership.

“I understand there’s a petition. I understand that a couple of hours ago there were nine signatures on it,” Liberal MP Jane Prentice told reporters on Wednesday night.

It was unclear how many MPs had actually seen and signed the letter and if any cabinet ministers were willing to shift their support from Mr Turnbull.

At least 43 signatures are required to bring on the meeting, which will be the second in a week after Mr Turnbull defeated Mr Dutton by 48 votes to 35 in a ballot on Tuesday.

A spokesman for Liberal whip Nola Marino told AAP reports of a meeting happening on Wednesday night were “completely untrue”.

It’s understood those pushing for the meeting want it to be held on Thursday morning.

Mr Dutton earlier on Wednesday confirmed he was still pursuing a challenge against Mr Turnbull, who chose not to accept the resignations of several ministers who voted against him.

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister James McGrath, who was a key supporter of Mr Turnbull when he brought down Tony Abbott in 2015, resigned from his position on Wednesday night because he could not support his leader.

“Our people feel forgotten, ignored and spoken down to,” Senator McGrath said in his resignation letter.

Social Services Minister Dan Tehan denied reports he had shifted support from Mr Turnbull.

“I’ve not resigned and I will not vote against a sitting prime minister,” he said.

Health Minister Greg Hunt, who was tipped to run as Mr Dutton’s deputy in Tuesday’s spill, said he was not aware of the letter.

“No I haven’t seen anything, I haven’t signed anything,” he told reporters in Parliament House on Wednesday night.

“The prime minister has my support, it has not changed.”

Liberal MP Luke Howarth said he hadn’t seen a petition, while another MP Warren Entsch said it was time to leave the leadership alone.

“We had a vote the other day, lets just move on,” he told reporters.

Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese said the debacle had gone on long enough.

“Whoever is the prime minister should visit the governor-general and just call an election and put them out of their misery,” Mr Albanese told Sky News.

Welfare energy payment won’t be cut

New pensioners have been assured they’ll continue to receive payments to help pay power bills.New pensioners will continue to get up to $7 a week to help pay power bills, with the federal government ditching plans to axe an energy supplement paid to welfare recipients.

Various coalition ministers in recent years have tried and failed to scrap the payment – which was originally offered as compensation for the defunct carbon tax – for incoming welfare recipients.

But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said on Wednesday the government would no longer seek the change, which has been stalled in the upper house.

“With the issue of energy prices being so prominent, we will not move to repeal the energy supplement,” he told reporters.

The government was hammered by Labor for trying to scrap the supplement during recent by-elections in the Queensland seat of Longman and Tasmanian seat of Braddon, both of which feature high levels of welfare dependency.

The prime minister on Tuesday told coalition colleagues the government was reviewing its stance on the so-called “zombie measure”.

The payment means an extra $14.10 per fortnight for single pensioners, $10.60 per fortnight for those with partners and up to $9.50 per fortnight for other single people receiving allowances.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said the policy shift will not impact on the budget as it was accounted for in a contingency reserve.

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said the backflip was welcome as every dollar those on the lowest incomes get matters.

The payment may have been established to complement the carbon tax but it is still needed now energy prices have risen, she said.

Dr Goldie said she hoped the government continues on the same track by raising other welfare payments.

“It’s an important opportunity for the government to reset its agenda,” she told AAP.

Iconic travel firm rebrands

GOING PLACES: Travel Associates is a boutique travel agency with a total focus on uncompromising customer service, a style that syncs perfectly with the Pearsons’ approach to travel.Escape Travel is rebranding asTravel Associatesafter joining forces with Australia’s number one premium travel agency group.
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This move is the latest exciting evolution in the Hunter based travel company founded and still run by thePearson family. Escape Travel emerged out of Harvey World Travel, which was founded by the Pearsons in the 1990s and remains synonymous with travel for generations of Novocastrians.

“We opened in January1997 with my father (Richard Pearson) and I as a franchise of Harvey World Travel, with mum looking after the accounts,” Richard’s son Adam said. “Later that year Angela Jenkins joined and still works for us, 21 years later. My brother Geoff joined us in 2005 and stayed in the business until late 2016.

“Over the 17 years as Harvey World Travel, we grew our business to five offices, buying Harvey World Travel Kotara and Charlestown and opening Harvey World Travel Mt Hutton and Glendale with more than 38 team members. We pride ourselves on still being a family business, owned by my wife (Fiona) and I for the last 18 months and it doesn’t stop with our family. We also have a brother and sister in our team as well as a mother and daughter.”

Travel Associates is a boutique travel agency with a total focus on uncompromising customer service, a style that syncs perfectly with the Pearson’s approach to travel.

“We understand that some clients are well-travelled andappreciate unique travel experiences and a choice of premium travel options,” Adam said.

“We also bring our expertise to the fore for first-time and less experienced travellers.

“Our experience really does matter. That’s why an appointment with Travel Associates is much more than just a consultation.”

Their travel advisors go out of their way to tailor design dream itineraries and provide competitive airfares (in first, business and economy class), special interest tours, luxury cruise and rail journeys, family packages to the likes of Fiji, Hawaii and Thailand with a difference.

Travel Associates’ national network of more than 500 experienced advisers offer a genuine love and passion for travel, a wealth of industry experience and years of first-hand destination knowledge.

“We have people in our teams with 10+, 20+ and 30+ years of experience in the travel industry,who have travelled to all corners of the globe –from trekking with the gorilla’s in Africa, to the Rocky Mountaineer rail journey in Canada, river cruising in Europe, skiing in Japan –we’ve done it all,” Adam said.

“That personal attention to detail is a perfect fit for the Travel Associates model, and paired withhigh quality marketing, IT support, training operations and superior buying power translates to the best deals for our clients.”

Our concern about the drought isn’t fair dinkum

It’s taken him too long, but public concern and the looming election has finally obliged Malcolm Turnbull to do the right thing by our farmers struggling with severe drought.
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In Forbes on Sunday, Turnbull announced a further $250 million in assistance to farmers and communities, including initial grants of $1 million each to 60 drought-affected councils in NSW, Queensland and Victoria, bringing Canberra’s direct handouts to $826 million.

Add a further $1 billion in concessional loans and the total outlay comes to $1.8 billion.

Well, about time.

Is that what you think? I don’t.

Dust storms sweep desolate farms near Balranald in south -west NSW as drought impacts the region. Photo: Nick Moir

I think most of it will be a waste of taxpayers’ money. You’ve heard of being cruel to be kind, but the way we carry on every time there’s a drought is being kind to be cruel. Our sympathy, donations and taxpayer assistance just prolong the agony of farmers unable or unwilling to face the harsh reality of farming in a country with one of the most variable climates in the world.

We may not be able to predict their timing or their length, but we can be certain that, before too long, this drought will be followed by another. And the scientists tell us climate change will make it worse.

And yet we keep pretending no one could have predicted or prepared for the next drought. Nonsense.

Our attitude to drought is all soft heart and soft head. I have two objections. The first is the way our collective concern about drought and its consequences is always media-driven.

Malcolm Turnbull in Forbes at the weekend. Photo: Fairfax Media

When I visited the country in mid-May, my host complained that no one in the city seemed to know or care about the drought that was ravaging the countryside.

But when, a few months later, the first media outlet got the message, it started the usual flood of heart-rending drought stories.

The media love drought stories because they know much they stir their customers’ emotions. Most people like having the media give their heart-strings a regular workout. I don’t.

And the trouble is, our concern about the drought – or the tsunami or earthquake or bushfire – lasts only as long as it takes the media’s attention to shift to some newer source of concern.

It’s already happening. Turnbull’s big announcement in Forbes got little media coverage because the threat to his leadership was far more exciting.

My more substantial objection to the recurring carry-on about drought is that it makes the problem worse rather than better. We give the bush a fish to feed it for a day when we should be helping it learn better fishing techniques.

Braidwood farmer Martin Royds has managed the drought after introducing soil science techniques and making a lot of management changes to minimise the effects of drought, fires and climate change. Photo: Karleen Minney

In their efforts to tug our emotions, the media invariably leave us with an exaggerated impression of the severity of the drought and the proportion of farmers who are suffering badly. They show us the very worst farms and the worst-off farmers.

To be blunt, they show us the bad managers, not the good ones. I can’t remember ever seeing a story where someone whose farm was in much better shape than his neighbours’ was asked how he did it.

The exception that proves the rule? Don’t be so sure. On average over the six years to 2007-08 – the Millennium drought – nearly 70 per cent of Australia’s broadacre and dairy farms in drought-declared areas managedwithoutgovernment assistance.

Many, maybe most, farmers prepare for drought. Some don’t. They’re the ones the media want us to feel sorry for. The ones who’ve overstocked their now badly degraded properties hoping it will rain before long or, failing that, the government and guilt-ridden city-slickers will give them a handout.

The trouble with our emergency assistance approach to drought is that it encourages farmers not to bother preparing for the inevitable. It encourages farmers whose farms are too small, or who lack the skills or spare capital to survive, to keep struggling on when they should give up.

And it does all that to the chagrin of the wise and careful farmers who’ve made expensive preparation for the next drought with little help from other taxpayers.

Australians have been leaving the farm and moving to the city for more than a century. They’ve done so because continuous advances in labour-saving technology have made small farms uneconomic and decimated the demand for rural labour. All while the nation’s agriculturalproductionkeeps growing.

This is my own family’s story. I was raised mainly in cities, but my father grew up on a dairy farm near Toowoomba and my mother on a cane farm in North Queensland.

Meaning that, were it not for my brush with economics, I too would share the city-slickers’ sense of guilt at having deserted the true Australian’s post on the land for a cushy life in the city. Would $50 be enough, do you think?

We are perpetrators of what Americans have dubbed the “hydro-illogical cycle”. As Dr Jacki Schirmer and others at the University of Canberradescribe it, this occurs when “a severe drought triggers short-term concern and assistance, followed by a return to apathy and complacency once the rains return.

“When drought drops off the public and media radar, communities are often left with little or no support to invest in preparing for the next inevitable drought.”

Every government report on drought concludes the best response is for farmers to improve their self-reliance, preparedness and climate-change management. We could help them with their preparations, but we get a bigger emotional kick from giving them handouts when droughts are at their worst.

Ross Gittins is smh南京夜网.au economics editor.

Federal MP Wyatt ‘disappointed’ in Dutton

Ken Wyatt says he’ll have to rethink his position if Peter Dutton becomes prime minister.Aged Care and Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt says he will have to consider his position if Peter Dutton becomes prime minister, given he boycotted the apology to Aboriginal Australians.
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The member for Hasluck, which is Western Australia’s most marginal seat, said if it got to the point of choosing a leader between Treasurer Scott Morrison and Mr Dutton, he would back Mr Morrison.

Mr Wyatt said the party room had reached a decision on Tuesday to back Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, yet some unhappy individuals “continued to work to undermine and change the circumstance”.

“I was disappointed when I discovered that he (Peter Dutton) had not supported the apology to the Stolen Generation,” Mr Wyatt told 6PR radio on Thursday.

“There was a handful who walked away from that vote and I was disappointed with them because the parliament was genuine and (then Prime Minister Kevin) Rudd was genuine in what he did, and it healed a lot of hurt.

“In serving, if it’s Peter Dutton then I would have to seriously think about my position.”

Mr Wyatt said only one WA MP had called him about the leadership issue because his colleagues knew he would always back the leader.

“It is sad because we now have allowed ourselves to give Bill Shorten and Labor an opportunity and a free run unless we become a cohesive unit again that governs for Australians – none of this right-left of extreme conservatives and non-conservatives.”

The 66-year-old urged his colleagues to act with integrity.

“Look at what Australia needs and make a judgment based on the strength of the leader, not on the strength of an opportunity.”

Mr Wyatt said he would be extremely disappointed if he was no longer able to continue to reform aged care and make Aboriginal health a priority.

Folau to fetch big Super Netball interest

New Zealand netball star Maria Folau (centre) will play Super Netball next season.Diamonds coach Lisa Alexander expects Super Netball clubs to clamour for Maria Folau’s signature after the New Zealand shooting star confirmed she was available to play in next year’s league.
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The long-time Northern Mystics shooter has lived in Sydney since marrying high-profile Wallaby Israel Folau last November.

She routinely flew home to play in the New Zealand league this year, but has now been given dispensation to play in the Australian competition while still being eligible to represent the Silver Ferns at next year’s World Cup.

Alexander said the 134-Test veteran and one of the sport’s most prolific long-range shooters would offer a club plenty of punch on and off the court.

“No club could say no to that sort of experience,” the national coach said.

“And obviously yes, from a commercial view definitely (she’s worth prioritising) but from a pathway point of view if she denied an Australian a contract it’s not in the best interests of the national program.

“For clubs to get that balance right is the key.”

The NSW Swifts are well stocked in attack but the retirement of Giants shooter Susan Pettitt offers Folau a genuine opening at a Sydney club, where her husband completed the recent Super Rugby season for the Waratahs.

But a move to Queensland is also viable, with Israel off contract and linked to the Reds and Mariah’s immediate family recently moving from Auckland to Brisbane.

Alexander expects both the Queensland Firebirds and Sunshine Coast Lightning – the latter of which will chase consecutive titles in Sunday’s grand final – to enter the race for her signature.

Adding weight to the Lightning’s case is the presence of Kiwi coach Noeline Taurua, who is expected to be confirmed as the new Silver Ferns mentor in coming weeks.

Folau told the website she would have retired internationally if not granted permission by Netball New Zealand to swap domestic leagues.

She played about half of the Mystics’ matches in the New Zealand premiership this year and found the commute too mentally and physically draining.

“And it’s also been hard on my husband and my family,” Folau said.

“I feel like I’ve given my all to netball, and I’ve done everything I can wearing the black dress for 13 years but I would love to give the World Cup one more crack.”

Folau is the second player, behind Laura Langman, to be granted a trans-Tasman exemption by NNZ, which wants to keep its leading players in New Zealand.

Greene a key to Giants’ AFL flag chances

Toby Greene has kicked 13 goals in seven AFL games in 2018 and averages 15 disposals.Statistics don’t always tell the full story but they suggest GWS forward Toby Greene is the club’s talisman and arguably their most important player, heading into a third straight AFL finals campaign.
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Toe, foot and hamstring issues have limited the Giants foundation player to just seven games this season, after he finished 2017 as their joint leading goalkicker with Jeremy Cameron and Jon Patton.

GWS won six and drew the other game Greene played in this season.

In a injury-hampered campaign in which just five Giants have played every game, Greene’s absence has been felt more keenly than most.

The combative 24-year-old is the player whose presence adds spark to their forward line.

GWS have scored an average of 15 points a game more when Green is playing.

He was absent from each of their five lowest scoring efforts of the season, including a horrific mid-season stretch of four straight losses, over which they averaged a paltry 55 points a match.

At 182cm, Greene is hardly a giant in the literal sense.

But his uncanny ability to regularly take marks in the forward 50 with his clever body work and good positional sense, allied to a strong ground game developed as a midfielder, makes him an x-factor player.

“He’s massive because he wins his own footy,” Giants’ forwards coach Brad Miller told AAP.

“He’s so hard to play on as a defender trying to match up on him.

“He can get you in the air but he can also get you on the ground and he’s fierce in the contest.

“He’s such a dangerous threat for us and he’ll be a huge upside if we can get him fit and firing for a couple of games in September.”

Green is listed to return for the first week of finals, by which time he won’t have played for five weeks.

However, he went almost three months between games earlier in the season and made an immediate impact, kicking two goals in a narrow home win over premiers Richmond.

“Even (though) he missed such a large amount of time, to play like he did…….there’s probably only a handful of players who can do that in the competition and he probably sits in that handful,” GWS vice-captain Stpehen Coniglio said.

“It’s not only his goals and his touches.

“It’s more just you’re walking out onto a game, particularly against Richmond, you look over, you see Toby Greene.

“Everyone, especially the more inexperienced players, walk really tall.”

Big party tricks

WHAT’S UP SPUD: Poor old Malcolm Turnbull found himself mashed by political forces this week.Events in Canberra this weekunderlinethe issue that gets people so cynical about politicians, namely politics.
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They’re here to do a job. But unfortunately it’son each other. Stuff the country.

Was a leadership spill that urgent in the minds of Australians this week, or any other?

Queensland lost State of Origin this year, yes, but throwing Peter Dutton into the mix always seems a bit extreme.

Rumours midweek suggested all this momentum for change was fake news.

Kind of believable given how incredibly unpopular Mr Potato Head seems to be with just about everyone.

Soon, however, the momentum had momentum and everyone was putting their hand up for a crack.Not sure anyone warms to Scott Morrison and Ms Bishop either. But when it’s on, it’s stacks on.

Malcolm didn’t have any loyalty, except that pledged to him by senior ministers. A bit like getting the totalbacking of the club when you’re an NRL coach.Made you wonder, who was driving the bus, and where was it heading. Over a cliff?

The Libs are still in power, remember.The economy is going OK. No one is talking about inflation or unemploymentexcept in terms of making Mal unemployed.And Mal seemedsuch a preferable PM compared to his rival in opposition despite the newspolls.

Opposition now seems like where Mal and his rivals in government are destined. And you’ve got to ask yourself,was that really the plan?

Yes electricity prices are high, butMal was trying to do something about it amid the wrecking, although insistingon tax breaks for the banks during a royal commission probably wasn’t the thing.

Ultimately, energy policy energised his enemies who showed that just like loyalty, there’s no guarantees in power.

The latest putsch seems like the most suicidal election move since Gillard v Rudd v Gillard v anyone else Shorten didn’t like.

The Labor Party will be hoping the public don’t dwell on that because it only seems like last bye-electionthey were thinking of doing the same thing again,with Albo.

All Bill Shorten has to do now is keep his lame zingers in the holster until after the polls and the Libs will be rewarded with oblivion.

Resigning Liberal front bencherConcetta Fierravanti-Wellssaid on Wednesday her party’s leadership crisis represented a problemwith the country’s soul.The traditional Liberal Party under Turnbull, she said,had lost the plot over things like same sex,climate change and the republic.

It was time, apparently, to move forwards by lurching backwards. For this conservative party riddled with such disconnect and division,that should be a formality.

Round four of “knife our PM in the back”gets you wondering who the bloody hell pays for all this.Oh, that’s right, us.

If the true measure of political integrity is exiling your party to opposition, then the next Liberal team will have it in spades.

Handy, really, because they’ll need something to bury the dead.

SIMON WALKER: That’s Life archive

State’s best to sail in for NSW Country Yachting Championships at Newcastle

FRANTIC PREPARATION: The crew on local yacht Frantic are coming into form after taking out the Sydney Noumea. Picture: Andrea FrancoliniNewcastle Cruising Yacht Club has invited all regional yacht clubs to contest the NSW Country Yachting Championships this weekend.
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Competition will be across IRC, PHS Cruising/Non-Spinnaker divisions.

“We are looking forward to the event, and know we have a few boats coming to compete with us up at Newcastle,” sailing manager Jack Buchan said.

“There will be some fantastic offshore sailing over the weekend”.

There will also be a team’s event to find the country yacht club of the year.

Clubs are welcome to enter multiple teams.

All sailing will be offshore windward/leeward racing.

The club will also host a comprehensive onshore program including welcome drinks on theFriday night and Saturday night party with live music, beforeending with a presentation barbecue on Sunday afternoon.

There will be some serious competition for honours, especially form the Newcastle-based sailors.

Mick Martin will be sailing Frantic, just having won line honours in Sydney Noumea Race.

“As per the boat’s name, we have all been pretty busy, frantically repairing the yacht from the Sydney Noumea, we got thrown around out there a bit,” Martin said.

“But were all squared now, we just want to get out there for a sail.

“We will be keeping an eye a few boats out there, we’ve had some good tussles with Nine Dragons.

“It’s all tactics, so we’re looking for a good start, and sustaining that throughout the weekend.”

Martin said “a decent amount” of local boats were entered.

“It’s always good to have racing here,” he said.

“We have a TP series later in the year, so things are really ramping up.

“Newcastle is a great city, it’s got a huge harbour and the foreshore is really coming on.”

Local skipper Phil Arnall and his Anger Management crew are in red-hot form, current trophy holders from the Pittwater to Sydney Race.

Joe De Kock will be inviting a special guest on board his yacht, Good Form.

Joining De Kock’s crew will be Carolijn Brouwer.

Brouwer is a world champion, multiple Olympian and Sydney to Hobart campaigner who etched her name in sailing history as the first woman to win the eight-month, 45,00 nautical mile Volvo Ocean Race on board DongFeng.

Meanwhile, Bob Cox and Nine Dragons – the current NSW yachting champions – and CYCA Winter Series winner Noel Cornish on St Jude will head up from Sydney.

Main sponsor Asahi Premium Beer returns for their second edition of the Asahi Super Dry NSW Country Yachting Championships.

The club hopes to attract like-minded sailors that enjoy good competition in a relaxed, friendly environment.

“We have a great fleet assembled,” NCYC Commodore Steve Rae said.

“There are some quality crews down from Sydney, but our local guys will give them a run for their money.”

Rae said boats like Frantic and Anger Management hadbeen going really well lately.

“Conditions look good, with 15-20 knots expected.

“It will give the Sydney boats some different racing to contend with and hopefully we will see some competitive racing out of it.”

ALL-ROUNDER: Cruise Craft Fish 360M offers unobstructed fishing thanks to its centre console design.

FISHING FROM ALL ANGLESIntroduced at the 2018 Melbourne Boat Show, the Cruise Craft Fish 360M capitalises onthe newfound popularity of the centre console configuration.

This new model offers the ability to fish 360 degrees around the perimeter of the boat. The360M combines a 20-degree deadrise vee hull with an all-new deck and interior layout.

This locally produced, fibreglass console boat gives Aussies an alternative to the US imports flooding the market.

At 6.35 metres long and weighing 2140kg, powered with Yamaha outboards, the 360M will likely prove more popular due to its lower cost and more manageable size.

NICHOLSON LINKS UP WITH DOYLELocal sailor Chris Nicholson is buying into Doyle Sails Lake Macquarie.

Nicholson is a world-renowned Australian sailor whohas a significant number of sailing accolades under his belt.

He has competed in six Volvo Ocean Races, most recently with Akzo Nobel in 2017-18.

He willworkin partnership with Peter McNeill, who has been a sailmaker for 40 years having set up his own business in 1992 and part of Doyle Sails Group since 2007.

McNeill is an experienced sailmaker and also a world-class sailor, winning multiple events including the 2004 Etchells World Championships.

Swans wary of former teammate Mitchell

Sydney are wary of trading barbs with ex-Swan Tom Mitchell before they clash with the Hawks.You won’t find anybody at AFL club Sydney willing to offer an inflammatory barb about former teammate Tom Mitchell.
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Mitchell returns to the SCG on Saturday as a short-priced Brownlow medal favourite and Hawthorn’s most influential star.

The gun midfielder left the Swans after the 2016 grand final, a product of the salary cap squeeze created by Lance Franklin’s arrival.

Hawks president Jeff Kennett declared on Wednesday that Franklin has never played well against his former side.

Such niggle is not the Swans’ style, particularly when given many of their players remain friends with Mitchell.

“Tom was obviously a much-loved member of our playing group, obviously good mates with the guy,” Swans ruckman Callum Sinclair told reporters.

Mitchell was highly regarded by Swans coach John Longmire during his five seasons at the club. Nothing has changed.

Longmire suggested last year that Mitchell is the league’s best at winning contested ball, joking if “there was one football left in the world and you employed Tom Mitchell to go and find it, he’d find it”.

George Hewett tagged Mitchell in round eight at the MCG. Mitchell was restricted to 20 possessions while the Swans won a thriller without Franklin thanks to Ben Ronke’s seven-goal haul.

Hewett is expected to be given the same tough job in this weekend’s playoff for a top-four spot in the finals.

“We’ll have to wait and see what the coaches are thinking with that one but Tom’s expected a fair bit of attention over his whole footy career,” Sinclair said.

“Tom’s biggest strength is his work-rate. He’s got a massive ability to run around the ground and accumulate a lot of ball.

“He’s done that at the SCG a few times. He certainly knows the ground pretty well.”

Sinclair wouldn’t bite back in response to Kennett but noted Franklin’s “record speaks for itself”.

“He’s been a pretty consistent performer over many years. I don’t think he’ll be taking too much notice of it,” he said.

“I haven’t really give it too much thought. If the playing group’s focus goes down that path of the theatre of footy then our mind’s not really on the job.”

Sinclair has enjoyed a career-best season and shouldered an immense workload in the absence of Kurt Tippett (retired) and Sam Naismith (knee injury).

The 28-year-old is confident he’ll keep running out games well as the Swans seek to progress deep into September.

NSW farmers ‘hanging on for grim death’

Lachlan Gall says the rains will eventually come, it’s just a matter of hanging on until it does.Across western NSW farmers are “hanging on for grim death” as they run desperately low on both feed and funds in the struggle against a devastating drought that has gone on for two years and shows little sign of breaking.
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Kangaroos are dying in their thousands, but only after they raid rubbish dumps and homes as they search for anything to eat, even cardboard.

On the highways east of Broken Hill heading to Wilcannia and further north to White Cliffs, road kill litters the bitumen every few hundred metres, with the carcases of roos, emus and wild goats constantly picked over by crows and eagles.

The desperate animals gravitate to the verges in search of grass tufts that grow from the dew that descends during the freezing clear nights.

On the land, some dams and bores still have water, but many graziers have been forced to severely reduce stock numbers as they resort to hand feeding.

The price of hay has skyrocketed because of the escalating demand and diminishing supply, plunging many heavily into debt, putting their future in grave doubt.

After such a long period without any meaningful rain, the ground is parched and even the slightest breeze whips up blinding clouds of dust.

What plants continue to grow in the harsh environment, where summer temperatures can easily top 50C, are either toxic or unpalatable.

It’s a depressing sight for anyone passing through, not to mention those who have to deal with the issues every day, watching the health of their herds slowly, and heartbreakingly, deteriorate

“Obviously it’s desperately dry,” Pastoralists Association of West Darling President Lachlan Gall told AAP.

“Quite often, even during the worst of droughts, somebody will be getting some rain.

“But in this drought no-one’s getting any rain anywhere. There’s no respite.”

The situation is also taking a toll on the people of the western plains, with mental health issues an increasing concern.

Speaking about the stress, the wife of one farmer said, “you can just see it on their faces”.

“They’re struggling because they care. Mentally the men don’t deal with it very well.”

“They’re just not the same.”

Another grazier told of the tough decision to sell off almost all his sheep, gambling on restocking once conditions improved.

He said sometimes those dealing with the drought and all that entails on a day-to-day basis don’t appreciate the impact it’s having on them.

It’s an attitude that leads some to refuse help when it’s offered, though for the most part farmers in the west are grateful of recent assistance from the state and federal governments including cash handouts and freight subsidies.

But they say that assistance “won’t help much at all” and more needs to be done.

The pastoralists association has called for a range of measures including the national adoption of an emergency water infrastructure fund to provide assistance with the cost of sinking bores and laying pipelines to provide water for both domestic and stock use.

It also wants to see the streamlining of application processes to speed up approvals for drought support, incentives to fence open waters to better control grazing animals and the commercial harvesting of kangaroos by allowing them to be taken for their skins only.

Gall said his group was similarly concerned that the process of applying for support measures was simply too long-winded.

“Honestly, we simply haven’t got the time and sit down for a couple of days to cross the T’s and dot the I’s on applications for assistance that we may or may not be eligible for when all day, every day we’re out hand feeding our animals, checking troughs and pumping water,” he said.

“It’s like Groundhog Day at the moment.”

But despite all these issues, most remain convinced that both they and the land will get through the current situation and emerge stronger and better prepared.

This area has survived probably the worst drought ever in the late 1960s, similarly dry conditions in the 1980s and 1990s and the so-called millennium drought which prevailed across much of south-eastern Australia from 2002.

They need and want some rain, desperately, but aren’t just sitting around waiting for the heavens to open.

They have farm and drought management plans in place and are taking other steps, such as improving water retention on their land and fencing to reduce the load on pastures, to make their properties more sustainable over the long term.

Gall said pastoralists in the west were a tough bunch and there was no-one in the region worrying about where their next meal was going to come from.

“We’ve been dealing with this situation for well over 12 months now and we’re a very resilient lot in the far west of the state,” he said.

“We realise there’s always going to be droughts just as there are going to be floods.”

Gall said just when the next big rains would come might still be a matter of “guesswork”.

But until then, farmers would continue “hanging on for grim death”.

“It will rain eventually, it’s just a matter of hanging on until it does,” he said.

Louise Turner, an environmental scientist whose family runs a 37,000-hectare sheep station about 50 kilometres northeast of White Cliffs, is also optimistic about the future.

“This is my home. It’s a pretty good part of the world to be,” she said.

“And even though I have my moments every now and again, I’m a glass half full type of girl.”

Her husband Zane takes a pragmatic approach.

“There’s no uncertainty. We’re going to have droughts out here, it’s a fact of life,” he said.

“We’ve just got to try to prepare for them and hopefully not too many are as bad as this one.”