Drought needs a different response than sudden natural disasters

Drought needs a different response than sudden natural disasters

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Fires, floods, and cyclones require rebuilding but drought needs a sustainable solution: Littleproud

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Minister for Water, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud visits the Rural Fire Service in Stanthorpe, Queensland.

Minister for Water, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud visits the Rural Fire Service in Stanthorpe, Queensland.

Opinion

Drought and natural disaster both hurt, but they're not the same.

Disasters like fires, floods and cyclones cause blunt-force trauma wiping out homes and infrastructure in minutes.

Drought is more like a cancer, it creeps in depleting landscapes and bank balances in our rural communities.

The reality is they need different treatments. The government has a different approach to them for this reason.

It's not easy to compare a disaster to a drought.

Recovery from a fire and flood can be measured by the rebuilding of houses or roads.

Drought on the other hand, is about day to day financial survival.

State and Federal governments have agreed to individual responsibilities under national drought policy which has enjoyed bipartisan support since 1992 and was subsequently updated and unanimously agreed to last year after the Prime Ministers Drought Summit.

From a federal perspective our drought strategy is clear and it comes in 3 parts.

Firstly in the here and now, keeping people in business.

This is through programs like Farm Household Allowance which has paid up to $37,000 to farming families to for household expenses.

Cheap shots from city seats is easy to do but living amongst it and delivering is another. - David Littleproud

Concessional loans that can save farmers up to $67,000 every year in interest or just providing additional Rural Financial Counselling staff to assist with paperwork to name a few.

Secondly it's about investing in the community. We've provided $1 million to drought affected shires who use local tradies and materials from local hardware stores to build community projects with a lasting legacy.

There's also more than $30 million to support communities with locally targeted mental health programs.

Thirdly it's about the future, to build the resilience so rural communities and farmers are on the front-foot future droughts.

For the first time in our nation's history we have a financial centrepiece to deliver that through the $5 billion Future Fund.

The Fund provides a $100 million dividend for specific programs targeted to build resilience in the good and bad years.

It's complimented by things like instant tax write-off for fodder storage infrastructure or Farm Management Deposits. Tax preparedness incentives cost the Australian taxpayer more than $500 million per year alone.

All up, to date we've committed more than $7 billion to this drought with $2b of that is available in the here and now.

But tackling drought is like going up a set of stairs. As the drought escalates you take another step up in your response and that's what this government has done and will continue to do. That's a National Drought Strategy in action.

Sadly I've had a front row seat of this drought as the member for Maranoa.

Some parts of the electorate are going into year eight.

Commentators on both sides of the climate debate should think about whether they will weaponise the drought through their own philosophical views.

People in drought don't care about the philosophy they just want outcomes.

That's why, in partnership with state governments and farmers we're investing more than $1 billion a year to give them the tools to adapt.

This includes best R&D in the world so our farmers have better genetics and new resilient varieties of crops.

Cheap shots from city seats is easy to do but living amongst it and delivering is another.

Federal and State governments all have a role to play in this and it's time we all focused on delivery, live up to each of our responsibilities and remember what's at the end of this, real people.

David Littleproud is Minister for Water, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management and Member for Maranoa.

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