Policy drought rolls on in new government

Policy drought rolls on in new government


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Scott Morrison, Bunginderry, QLD, graziers Stephen and Annabel Tully and Major-General Stephen Day on the Tully's property near Quilpie in August 2018. Photo Alex Ellinghausen.

Scott Morrison, Bunginderry, QLD, graziers Stephen and Annabel Tully and Major-General Stephen Day on the Tully's property near Quilpie in August 2018. Photo Alex Ellinghausen.

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Yet more consultation on national drought policy as states bicker over farmer subsidies.

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Federal parliament resumed this week with politicians pledging to create a $100m a year future fund, but as yet there are still no clear drought policy plans.

Farmer groups and rural charities were advised last week that their consultation on the Prime Minister's pet project, the Drought Taskforce headed by Major-General Stephen Day, had informed a "comprehensive"plan for drought.

"Dealing with drought and a changing climate is a top priority for our government," said PM Scott Morrison in October last year, when he announced plans for a $5b in a drought future fund, to pay out $100m a year for preparedness measures.

Industry has pushed during the past five years of the Coalition government for a consistent drought responses to all levels of governments.

But there's still no national policy and the states are still bickering over how best to spend taxpayer dollars on farmer support schemes.

This week the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria called for a popular NSW drought support scheme, the $40,000 fodder transport subsidy, to be abolished because it artificially inflates the cost of feed for farmers across the country.

At the same time, Queensland prompted a farmer backlash when it announced it could scrap freight subsidies by 2021 with the aim of, in the words of Agriculture Minister Mark Furner, ensuring producers better prepare for drought.

Former federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, who has been appointed to a new ministry for drought, said Major-General Day would submit a report based on his consultations across the country.

"He's put a strategic framework forward and we'll be working through that over the coming couple of months," Mr Littleproud said.

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Despite drought taskforce consultation over the past eight months, there is a need for more industry feedback with industry groups and states, Mr Littleproud said.

"In our discussion we will talk very heavily about mutual obligation, who is responsible for what, and when actions are triggered.

"It's about the accountability of what the states and federal government do, and how that is delivered."

Last week, at the Australian Farm Institute's Farming in a Risky Climate' conference Mr Littleproud said drought policy shouldn't prop-up businesses.

"Government can't do it all, there's got to be some self-responsibility with this. You can't enjoy the fruits of a market economy without the fear of failure. We've got to be honest with people... not everyone will get through this drought, and there shouldn't be an expectation that the government will get everyone through. We can't," he said.

"We live in a great country and there will always be a safety net, but you can't expect a federal government to save everybody."

The government's Drought Future Fund is on the list of new legislation to come before parliament in the first sitting week of the new government.

"We'll be putting it into parliament at the end of this week and I'm hoping for bipartisan support from the Opposition. Hopefully, with new leadership, there is a new politics," Mr Littleproud said.

Agforce president Georgie Somerset said there was a "a real window" of opportunity for a national drought policy

"We have multiple reports on it from Major General Stephen Day, in Queensland and on the Farm Household Allowance," Ms Somerset said.

"We need now to get a firm policy, that the states sign up to, and to see that it actually happens.

"We should move towards greater investment in things that enable producers to be more prepared, and strong frameworks that for what is required of them in reasonable seasons and when they need a hand.

"We also need to ensure we are looking at the holistic nature of regional communities, so they can still support small businesses from towns that are impacted by drought."

The story Policy drought rolls on in new government first appeared on Farm Online.

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