Farm lobby slams new Commonwealth and state governments’ drought agreement
National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simson is disappointed with the new agreement. (ABC News: Matt Roberts)
Farmers have slammed a new national drought agreement as a wasted opportunity.
- Prime Minister, premiers and chief ministers sign a new agreement on drought
- The agreement underpins government preparedness and responses to dry periods
- Farm lobby criticises the agreement for not going far enough to overhaul existing programs
The Prime Minister and his state and territory counterparts used a meeting in Adelaide to sign a new deal that dictates how their governments respond to drought.
The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has long called for a new deal, but when the details emerged president Fiona Simson said the leaders had failed to come up with a new national approach to drought.
“They’ve come into the room and pretty much they’ve left with the same thoughts on things that they came into the room with,” Ms Simson said.
“Whilst the commitment is very good, and the acknowledgement of drought as a national issue is excellent … we have to take that talk to the next level.”
The new intergovernmental agreement recognises the need to support farmers and communities as they “manage and prepare for climate change and variability”.
Speaking at his drought summit in October, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised to deliver a new national approach to drought by the end of the year.
He said it would help remove inconsistencies that mean farmers on different sides of state borders get treated differently when drought strikes.
But Ms Simson said what farmers needed was a policy that would “leave politics at the door”.
“If we don’t have that enshrined in some sort of a commitment at a national and state level, which is where COAG comes into it, then ultimately it develops the way that this drought has developed with a number of political fixes and people feeling very frustrated that that is the way forward,” she said.
Politicians at odds over new drought policy
Mr Morrison, speaking alongside the premiers and chief ministers in Adelaide, said the new agreement was an important step forward.
“It provides for greater accountability and information-sharing about what we are learning about drought so we can better co-ordinate our drought planning,” he said.
Labor’s federal agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon criticised the agreement and said it was little more an a “cut-and-paste job” of a previous agreement, which came into force in 2013.
That agreement expired in the middle of this year as drought set in across swathes of the country.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the new agreement was struck without fanfare because the drought has dropped off the Government’s agenda.
“It’s just a carbon copy pretty much of the agreement struck more than five years ago, and sadly that was an agreement that was not properly progressed,” he said.
Ms Simson said a national drought policy needed to consider how farmers used drought management tools such as the Farm Household Allowance, farm management deposits, fodder storages, water infrastructure and tax incentives.
“Those detailed polices are not in here, and nor is there a commitment in here for the states and federal government, to work together on finalising those polices and actually enshrining them in a comprehensive drought policy and I think that is why we’re so disappointed,” she said.
“We have a future fund on the table, which is great, and we welcome that, but where is the process to put the detail into what that money is going to be spent on … this was the place today to come to that agreement and develop a strategic drought policy and its just missed.”