The ACM readers' election survey recently sought the views of non-city-dwellers from regional and rural Australia. Their most important concerns were the environment, climate change, health and leadership, the absence of which is now palpably obvious from the ineffective preparation for extreme weather events, particularly the devastating east coast floods.
The Emergency Response Fund of $4 billion was established in 2019 in response to the bushfire crisis. As ACM's Voice of Real Australia newsletter put it, "it seems we have a truckload of money set aside for disaster recovery, but the people affected aren't getting much of it. They also didn't get much of it for preparedness either."
Now, after decades of denial and prevarication, the new National Climate Resilience and Adaptation Strategy accepts that "as the global temperature rises and other changes to the climate increase, Australia will face more frequent and severe events, such as extreme weather, fires and floods ..."
Even this is an understatement, for our health and existence on this planet is threatened by damage to our life-support systems - a stable climate, clean water, clean air, biodiversity and the ecological services it provides, and land on which to grow food. All of these are under increasing threat.
Governments have yet to understand and offer leadership to protect these life supports, and to recognise that the rural sector is the beating heart of the nation without which the future is bleak for all.
Our crucial rural, regional and remote areas are home to one-quarter of Australia's population. The people that live there are known for their self-sufficiency, incredible resilience and fortitude, yet governments offer them little as they face the rapidly advancing extremes of global heating.
The national government is woeful, and rural representatives - mainly the Nationals - have failed to act successfully on these crucial issues.
They suffer from totally inadequate healthcare, communication, transport and other support services which rank well below those in the rest of Australia. This is the rural-urban divide, which is an indictment of government and the operation of democracy in this country.
Rural health services are mostly inadequate, as reflected in the regions' comparatively poorer mental health statistics, higher suicide rates, poorer life expectancy and higher prevalence of chronic illness.
Housing, the fundamental basis of good health and community stability, is lacking, despite it being a right under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adequate accommodation is also vital for seasonal workers, an integral part of the farming industry.
This human right is transgressed most by government with the appalling housing situation in many rural and remote Aboriginal communities.
Community resilience and our ability to adapt to change depends on these and many other services. But local banking, postal services and communications are also all withering under economic rationalism; all have an impact on whether health and agricultural workers are prepared to live and work in these communities.
Ultimately, our governments' greatest failure is in their understanding of biodiversity and ecological services. The bottom line is the survival of soil and land.
Increasing heat and falling rainfall are decreasing the thousands of species which make up the living soil, and agricultural yields are decreasing worldwide.
To date there has been increased productivity, but with some practices which harm the soil and biodiversity in general. In Australia farm income is falling, which encourages land-clearing and which has already made us amongst the world's biggest land-clearers.
All remaining wood and grasslands must be maintained for the shelter of pollinators and other ecological services. With declining production, economic rationalism may need to be ditched to introduce subsidies.
What action is needed? The national government is woeful, and rural representatives - mainly the Nationals - have failed to act successfully on these crucial issues. They remain conflicted over their support, together with state governments, for fossil-fuel developments which damage the environment.
Only independents have offered needed solutions - for example, Helen Haines promoting local renewable-energy security and micro-grids. This would deliver cheaper energy for farming, and the option for secure shelters from fire, flood and heat waves.
Responsibility must lie with a framework of local authorities - particularly farmers with a deep attachment and care for the land (and their organisations such as Farmers for Climate Action), the National Rural Health Alliance, scientists and planning experts. They should receive the truckload of federal funding.
As a doctor, this is my prescription for rural health and survival.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.