The shocking drought remains one of the biggest challenges our country currently faces. Without significant rain soon, it will be recorded as our worst ever.
I thank the many who have organised or contributed to the various charitable efforts.
It confirms both the high regard in which our farmers are held and the generosity of our communities.
Is there a limit to what government can do? Yes. Is government doing enough? No.
There are two basic roles for government.
The first is to ensure farming families have access to the equivalent of unemployment benefit. That is necessary because unemployment benefit is means-tested and farmers almost always will hold too many farm assets to qualify. Governments have long had a special payment for drought affected farmers which has a far more generous asset and income tests. The current version is Farm Household Allowance (FHA).
The second key role for government is to help farmers better prepare for drought.
Farmers can invest in more efficient irrigation systems or water storage, they can embrace different and more sustainable farming methods based on the latest science, or they can put more money away in the good times for use in the tougher times.
Government can help or provide incentives to encourage farmers to do some or all of these things. For example, there are tax incentives for both investment in water infrastructure and for putting money aside.
The partly government-funded agricultural research and development corporations research the best and most sustainable farming methods and encourage farmers to embrace them.
A more urgent approach to the greater uptake of holistic farming methods should have started early in 2013 when the Commonwealth and the States entered in to an InterGovernmental Agreement on Drought Policy Reform. After the 2013 election, the Abbott Government abolished the CoAG committee charged with progressing the work.
Farm Household Allowance has been poorly managed too. Over the course of the past four years, farmer after farmer has declared the application process to be "a nightmare".
As recently as a month ago Government Ministers and officials were claiming there wasn't a problem. But then a week or so ago, they announced the matter will be "reviewed". A review? Let's just fix it!