Labor is supporting the Federal Government’s recent emergency drought response, but agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon is reserving criticism for the Coalition’s broader drought policy.
Mr Fitzgibbon welcomed the Government’s $190 million funding package which centred on the Farm Household Allowance scheme.
“Despite its lateness and the lack of comprehensiveness of this package, Labor will support it and will stand by our farmers. Cash can never do any harm, it can only help,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
However, he cited farmers’ concerns about navigating the complex FHA application process, which some have argued is reducing the number of applicants from eligible recipients.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the Government had been “completely missing in action” on the important role in encouraging farmers to adapt to climate change.
He has been critical of the Federal Government’s lack of action on two key agricultural issues in climate change and interstate cooperation on drought preparedness.
Shortly before it lost an election the former Federal Labor Government inked an agreement with the states in 2013 to develop drought resilience policies that moved away from the old Emergency Circumstances and farmer subsidies policies.
“Over the last five years the Coalition Government failed to act on it and has allowed it to lapse,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“A Shorten Labor Government will restore the CoAG process for drought reform and dispatch Australia’s agriculture-based Research and Development Corporations to help farmers build defences against the impacts of an increasingly variable climate such as protracted drought, severe storms, frost, pests and diseases.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said the RDCs would be set specific benchmarks and tasked with increasing farmer uptake of drought mitigation techniques and sustainable farming methods.
“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,” he said.
In May Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud led the Ministerial Council of interstate ag ministers in signing an agreement to develop a national strategy to tackle climate change.
The response will start with a paper on adaptation strategies, which will include:
- Potential climate change scenarios and impacts over time
- Analysis of risks and opportunities presented by climate change to agricultural industries
- A review current adaptation policies across the country and a census of emissions reductions in the agriculture sector
- Strategy to develop a national approach to adaptation