PM kicks drought problem down the road

Labor welcomes the Turnbull Government’s announcement that it will extend Farm Household Allowance (FHA) for drought affected farming families. 

It is clear the Prime Minister’s drought tour was designed to set the scene for the announcement but he didn’t need the tour to tell him the more than 2,000 farmers who recently exhausted their eligibility to FHA are facing desperate times.  

The Government also needs to clarify whether farming families will now need to begin a new FHA application process. We all remember “Hansardgate.”

The Prime Minister doesn’t need a “Round Table” either.  There is nothing he can learn from that exercise we don’t all already know.  The extension of FHA and the proposed associated round table process is clearly a plan to kick the drought issue beyond the next federal election.

What Malcolm Turnbull must do is resurrect the CoAG process his Government destroyed.  In 2013 the Commonwealth and the States entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) on Drought Reform. 

Too busy denying climate change is a problem, Barnaby Joyce failed to progress the reform project. The IGA expires next month and nothing exists to replace it.

CoAG agreed the FHA should not be a permanent payment to farmers.  Rather, it should be an interim measure to help farmers make a transition to a more resilient business model.  But The Abbott and Turnbull Governments failed to progress the CoAG project.

While it has taken five years, we welcome the Turnbull Government’s belated recognition that climate change is driving our drought challenges.  The foundation of a new Intergovernmental Agreement must be based on that fact and have a focus of mitigation, adaptation and the building of resilience through market-based policies and best-practice land use methods.

In the meantime, the Prime Minister should put an immediate stop to his Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority relocation and Regional Investment Corporation pork barrelling exercises. 

The $70 million being spent on those boondoggles could be redirected to meaningful and immediate assistance for farmers.

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