Drought policy months away

Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Bunginderry, Queensland, with graziers Stephen and Annabel Tully and Major-General Stephen Day. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
Prime Minister Scott Morrison at Bunginderry, Queensland, with graziers Stephen and Annabel Tully and Major-General Stephen Day. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

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Federal parliament has resumed with politicians pledging to create a $100 million a year future fund, but as yet there is still no clear drought policy.

Farmer groups and rural charities were advised in June 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 Prime Minister Scott Morrison in October last year, when he announced plans for a $5 billion drought future fund, including paying out $100m a year for preparedness measures.

In the past five years of Coalition government, industry has pushed for a consistent drought response from all levels of government.

But there is still no national policy, and the states also remain divided.

In the first week of July, the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria called for NSW drought measure, the $40,000 fodder transport subsidy, to be abolished because it artificially inflated feed costs.

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Concurrently, the Queensland Government prompted a farmer backlash when it announced it would scrap freight subsidies 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 was appointed to a new ministry for drought, said Major-General Day would submit a report based on his country-wide consultation.

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

Yet, despite eight months of consultation, Mr Littleproud said there remained a need for more industry feedback.

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

"It's about the accountability of what the states and federal government do."

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," he said.

"... not everyone will get through this drought, and there shouldn't be an expectation that the government will get everyone through. We can't."

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.