Drought taskforce ends

The Federal Government’s Joint Agency Drought Taskforce has been wound up, effective 28 June, with the responsibilities for drought policy absorbed by the Department of Agriculture.

The body was created in August 2018 and sat within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to oversee rapid support for farmers and reduce blockages.

It was headed by the Coordinator General for Drought, Major-General Stephen Day, who visited numerous drought-hit communities across the continent to inform the federal government about what responses would be most effective. His role will conclude by mid-July.

ALGA has raised concerns with the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that placing the responsibilities within Agriculture would prioritise support for drought-affected farming at the expense of other community sectors also struck by the drought.

Although the task force has finished, the Federal Government says its work will continue now that the new Parliament has opened.

Reading a speech prepared by the government, the new Governor-General, David Hurley AC DSC, told the first day of the 46th Parliament that:

“Though we would all like it to be otherwise, drought conditions are not expected to ease in the short term. One of the first orders of business of this 46th Parliament will be to legislate the $3.9 billion Future Drought Fund.

“That funding must be a priority to help better manage drought, to protect our valuable rural industries and the people who make them possible.

“My government will also introduce a new suite of measures to support farmers, their families and rural communities to continue to battle drought, flood and natural disasters.”

That $3.9 billion figure differs to what taskforce participants, including ALGA, have been told by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“The Australian Government has a comprehensive $7 billion plan, informed by the work of the Drought Taskforce, to respond to the ongoing challenge of drought in Australia,” correspondence from the department said.

“A key mechanism of this plan will be the $5 billion Future Drought Fund.”

ALGA will continue making representations to Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management, David Littleproud MP, and the Agriculture Department, urging that drought-hit communities not be forgotten.

Image: Coordinator General for Drought, Major-General Stephen Day. Photo courtesy Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.