Canberra Report: More needs to be done in drought crisis

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!

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  • Rodney John Luke
    commented 2018-09-02 21:57:13 +1000
    Saw you and Barnaby on National Wrap , omg why can’t we elect a body of people to parliament, who can sit down and have a reasonable chat without all the party politicking and come up with soloution to the nations problems, I am sick of listening to you all not be able to answer a question without trying to score political points, let’s build several desalination plants around the coast of Australia, and fill the rivers, and while where at it put a turbine at each plant and produce some electricity at the same time giving us water and power security, for the future generations, and while where at it let’s dig a giant canal from the top of Northern Territory down to coast of South Australia, and run ships though the middle of the country, close to our mineral resources, and irrigate the middle of our great country building community along it banks to farm the land for the entire countries benefit, if Saudi Arabia can irrigate the desert why can’t we, if it takes 100 years it does not matter, it a nation building project , disillusioned voter with both major parties , we need people who have the countries interest before their own political careers,
    Rodney Luke.
  • Ken Scott
    commented 2018-08-08 14:32:24 +1000
    From the person who said it is not appropriate for the defense forces to help out as they are not farm labourers. What about the transport / drivers to cart water and /or donated supplies. Both sides of parliament should get together and help out, as many small communities around the state and country are doing