Farmers paying the price for five years of policy inaction

Farming families affected by drought are paying the price for 5 years of Abbott/Turnbull Government policy inaction.

Now the Turnbull Government is holding a roundtable on drought policy.  It’s too little, too late for struggling farming families.

Like the Prime Minister’s drought tour, there is nothing the roundtable can tell Malcolm Turnbull we don’t already know.

Today he will try to blame the banks, the same banks he tried to protect by voting against a Royal Commission on twenty three occasions.

An effective round table would be one which involved the State and Territories.

The States and Territories have a key role to play in developing effective drought policy. But the Turnbull Government abolished the CoAG process almost five years ago and as a result, state-commonwealth cooperation and coordination has evaporated.

The Turnbull Government now says it wants to simplify the application process for Farm Household Allowance.  Yet for five years it been saying there isn’t a problem. 

Remember when under questioning from Labor Barnaby Joyce told Parliament “But it is not the case that you apply for the money and then you have to wait for your application to be approved. You actually get the money straightaway?”  That answer lead to the infamous Hansardgate debacle.

The Turnbull Government is wasting $28 million on its Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) pork barrelling exercise in Orange.  The RIC is without a home, a CEO or staff.  We have seen no indication that its loans will be any easier for farmers to access than are existing loans administered by state governments.

That’s $28 million that could be helping farmers now.

Another waste of taxpayers’ money is the tens of million being spent on the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority to Armidale.   A forced relocation which is impacting on farm productivity and another bucket of money which could be used to help struggling drought-affected farming families.

The Intergovernmental Agreement on Drought Reform expired 9 days ago.  In the absence of a proper CoAG process, the Turnbull Government has done nothing to replace it.

We must re-start the drought reform process and the first step is to formally engage the state again.

The second step is to formally recognise that the climate is changing and the challenge will grow larger.  Mitigation, adaptation and the building of resilience must be the foundations for any new approach to drought policy.

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