Sunday becoming drought assistance catch up day

Another Sunday, another drought policy. It is clear today’s drought announcement is more about saving Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership than the needs of drought affected farming families - and still doesn’t do enough to get out farmers the help they need right now.

After five years of policy inaction, the Turnbull Government has announced its third drought policy in eight weeks. It is looking more and more like chaotic catch up.

It is just two weeks since Malcolm Turnbull made his last drought announcement.  Back then he responded to concerns it was too little too late and calls to give eligible farmers their $12,000 payment up-front by saying; “March is not far away”.

Six weeks earlier the Turnbull Government made yet another announcement, this time to extend Farm Household Allowance (FHA) from three to four years.  Yet only weeks earlier the Government was arguing no change was necessary.  The difficulties in apply for and securing FHA remain real.

It’s four years since Barnaby Joyce was caught out doctoring his Hansard after exaggerating the Government’s drought assistance measures.  Farmers have not experienced any meaningful relief from drought in the time since.

Today the Turnbull Government has announced yet another change to its drought policy.

But missing still is:-

  1. the restoration of the COAG drought policy reform process Malcolm Turnbull’s Government destroyed in 2013. 
  2. action to help more farmers better adapt to climate change and to embrace best-practice regenerative farming methods to combat drought.
  3. the option to give farmers the $12,000 assistance in one lump sum, rather than having to wait for payments.

The Turnbull Government should also stop exaggerating the dollar value of its drought response by factoring in the capital value of loans not likely to ever be lent.

Labor will support the measures announced today but the Turnbull Government’s reactive, ad hoc and clumsy response to drought is no alternative to a coordinated, collaborative, science-based approach focused on climate adaptation.

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