National Farmers' Federation

Prime Minister’s drought assistance helpful but a new approach desperately needed

The National Farmers’ Federation said the Federal Government’s announcement of ongoing assistance to support farmers and rural and regional communities to manage the current drought was some good news in what are tough times.
“While drought is a feature of the Australian landscape and farmers are well practiced at managing dry times, for some these are unprecedented times,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.
“Parts of Queensland have been in drought for seven years and the Murray Darling Basin has recorded it’s driest period on record.
“Unfortunately there appears to be no end in sight. The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting below average rainfall across most of the country again this summer.”
Mr Mahar said today’s announcement by the Prime Minister of new assistance would go some way to assisting those in need of help.
“The NFF particularly welcomes changes to the Farm Household Allowance that reduce the administrative burden of applying.
“The strain on farming families of continuing to run a farming business, keeping food on the table and supporting children cannot be underestimated.
“Making it easier to apply means accessing help is not adding to that strain.”
The NFF also welcomes the Government’s extension of the Drought Community Programme providing $1 million to 13 Local Government Areas.
“If well targeted and implemented, this funding can provide employment when drought has forced people out of work. It can also support community initiatives that increase resilience for future droughts,” Mr Mahar said.
“The severity of this drought and the increasing hardship it has brought to farmers and rural and regional communities, must make us stop and rethink our approach to drought.
“Ad hoc measures in the middle of drought provide some short term relief and of course are applauded.
“But the fact that farmers and local communities continue to suffer and call on government for further assistance means we’ve failed as a country to find an effective and enduring approach to preparing, managing and recovering from drought.
“The Government’s willingness to remain engaged and continue to assist is appreciated.
“But we have been here before, and we will undoubtedly be here again unless we take a new approach.”
Mr Mahar said the NFF was currently completing a national drought policy and called on all levels of government, industry, and community groups to rethink their approach to drought.
“We need a comprehensive and enduring national approach to drought that focuses on preparedness and resilience measures. We need an approach that mandates the assessment of the effectiveness of drought measures and allows for improvements when measures fall short.
“It’s absolutely crucial that we have a coordinated approach that ensures all voices are heard and that the responsibility of managing drought is shared across government, industry and community.”

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