A Shorten Labor Government will restore the CoAG process for drought reform and dispatch Australia’s agriculture-based Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) to help farmers build defences against the impacts of an increasingly variable climate such as protracted drought, severe storms, frost, pests and diseases.
Labor will ask the Council of RDCs to lead the development of an Agricultural Climate Response Plan (ACRP) to dramatically increase the uptake of drought mitigation, best practice and sustainable farming methods.
The Grains Research & Development Corporation, Meat & Livestock Australia and each of the relevant RDCs will be asked to pursue agreed benchmarks and milestones over the period of a new five year InterGovernmental Agreement (IGA) on Drought Reform (IGADR).
The Agricultural Climate Response Plan will not only build farm resilience, it will drive productivity and help maintain yields in drier periods, and reduce input costs including energy and fertiliser costs.
Collectively our agriculture-based RDCs are the recipients of around $600 million our taxpayers’ money annually. There could be no better use of taxpayers’ money than to have it invested in the the ability of our farmers to remain productive in times of severe drought.
In 2013 the Commonwealth and the States signed an historic agreement to scrap all the old and unsuccessful drought relief programs and to develop a new approach based on five key objectives.
That Agreement expired last month. Over the last five years the Coalition Government failed to act on it and has allowed it to lapse.
Indeed the CoAG body responsible for the IGA – the Standing Committee on Primary Industry (SCoPI) – was abolished by the now Turnbull Government not long after the 2013 election. Barnaby Joyce said we didn’t need it.
Labor will restore the CoAG process, strike a new IGA, and ensure farm resilience building is a key focus and objective.
Labor is disappointed that we have lost five years of drought policy reform under the Coalition; but stands ready to support any new, meaningful and immediate Government drought responses.