Jamie Mackay: Budget peeves and sticking it to the millennials


The Budget, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Phil Mickelson and a 162 year-old farm walk into a bar!

No it’s not a bad joke. It’s a good yarn. And it’s been at the forefront of my mind for the past week.

Let’s start with the Budget. It gets a big tick for aspiration. Any document that aspires to bring children out of poverty should be applauded. But as a business plan to grow the economy out of our all-encumbering Covid debt, it has about as much imagination as the attack coach of an Aussie Super Rugby side.

Let’s be frank here. This Winston-free Budget was never about growing the economy or encouraging the productive sector. It was all about equity and equality for the have-nots. And I’m fine with that, providing someone, hopefully Grant Robertson, has figured out how to pay for it without dis-incentivising the wealth creators of our economy.

My two personal hobby horses for the Budget were not addressed. Looking out for the ‘working poor’ and bringing in essential migrant labour to do the jobs that Kiwis can’t, won’t, or are too lazy to do. Agriculture Minister, the affable Damien O’Connor, has been inhaling too much of his home turf’s ‘Golden Bay Hay’ if he reckons this Budget is going to get our crops harvested, fruit picked and cows milked in the coming season.

But if you think some of the drones in the Beehive are somewhat removed from the realities of the real world, our politicians have nothing on the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) across the Tasman, who hit it out of the park last week. Rural Australia, so often decimated by drought, is currently being destroyed by a mouse plague of Biblical proportions.

According to the PETA plonkers the mice are merely “bright, curious creatures” looking for food to survive and “they shouldn’t be robbed of that right because of the dangerous notion of human supremacy”.

According to these extreme animal welfare activists, “instead of poisoning the innocent rodents, farmers should set up humane traps to gently catch and release the mice unharmed”.

I rest my case.

As for Phil Mickelson, his was a victory for the ages. And a victory for the aged! The PGA Golf Championship was the ultimate “take that you big-hitting millennials” to the younger generation snapping at his heels. Although just five years a pre-Boomer, Big Phil fired a shot in anger (or in his case, 282 of them) for all of us on the wrong side of 50.

Millennials! I work with two of them and we certainly have our fair share of inter-generational office banter. They accuse me of being self-serving, greedy, and a Boomer property pig. I accuse them of being self-serving, needy and lazy. Seems we only have self-serving in common. Most of it’s in good humour but on this occasion the Boomer got the last laugh thanks to Gen-Xer Phil.

And there’s only one thing better than old golfers giving it to millennials and that’s old farms being recognised for 100 years or more under the ownership of one family.

On Saturday evening in the quaint South Otago hamlet of Lawrence – famous for the gold rush at Gabriel’s Gully in 1861 and for being where our national anthem originated – there will be the second of two Century Farm and Station Awards celebrations. A Covid postponement in 2020 meant two functions are needed this year to recognise many of the Kiwi farms commemorating 100 years or more as Century Farms.

Honour for the oldest goes to the Lindsay family of Golden Bay, whose tenure stretches back to 1859. To put it into historic perspective, this farm predates the American Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s presidency by two years!

The family farm has long been the backbone of our primary sector. Up until the economic reforms of the 1980s, there was nothing unusual about a farm being in the name of one family for 100 years. Back then, farms were more-often-than-not Dad and Dave operations, passed down from one generation to the next.

Rogernomics, ballooning land values, economies of scale, corporate farming, high-tech, environmental reforms and David Parker have changed all that. I hope like hell I’m wrong, but I’d be most surprised if, in 100 years hence, there’ll be a Century of Farms celebration. All the more reason to celebrate these wonderfully enduring farming families in 2021.

They truly are the backbone and cash cow of our nation.

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