After six years of policy failure, the Morrison Government rushed the Future Drought Fund legislation through the Parliament in one Parliamentary sitting week, despite the fact the fund will not fund any projects until 2020/21.
On October 26 2018 the Government held a Drought Summit. Scepticism about the value of a summit was vindicated when Scott Morrison announced the Future Drought Fund on the morning of the summit and before the talk-fest began.
This typifies this Government’s approach to drought policy: on-the-run and politically driven.
Labor is concerned that the Future Drought Fund will become another National Party slush fund. It’s a plan to spend money on something, but the Government appears not to know what that something is.
Only vague information has been provided as to how the Government intends to spend the $100 million each year. It has talked about technology adoption and natural resource management, but these are topics the Government has shown no interest in for more than five years.
A Labor Government will implement the Farm Productivity and Sustainable Profitability Program delivering the same level of funding the Morrison Government has committed to in the Drought Future Fund ($400 million over four years) without abolishing the Building Australia Infrastructure Fund.
The climate is growing more challenging for our farmers and drought can no longer be viewed as an exceptional event. Rather, a hotter and drier environment should be considered the new normal.
Labor believes there is a role for government in helping farmers adapt to changing weather patterns. This means that in addition to in-drought policy responses, government must lead a resilience and productivity agenda.
Policy development must be evidence-based, be guided by the known science, and should focus on a whole-of-industry productivity and resilience-building agenda. In other words, the policy strives to help not only those who can no longer achieve profitability in times of drought but rather, lift productivity and sustainable profitability across all farm businesses.
Policies with too great a focus on those farm businesses which are least viable in the hottest and driest of periods risk being most defined by resource misallocation and policy failure.
Labor will not wait until 20/21 to take decisions on spending measures and we will design policy initiatives for the whole sector based on expert advice.
Labor will establish a Panel of Guardians for the Program, to advise government on policy design and implementation strategies.
A Shorten Labor Government will establish the Panel within the first 60 days of office and put it immediately to work.
The Panel of Guardians will include:
The Panel will report to the Minister for Agriculture and will be asked to provide a detailed plan within 12 months.