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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12369


Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (17:41): You'd be forgiven for thinking that the newest slogan for the Morrison government is 'Better late than never', and the Future Drought Fund is no exception to this, sadly. For years, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments buried their heads in the very dry earth of Australia, hoping that the drought would simply go away, but rain has not fallen in sufficient quantity, produce is not growing as we would have it, dams are certainly not overflowing and our farmers are still struggling. I only have to have a quick flick through my Facebook feed to see a number of people whom I am friends with still out feeding stock and taking photos of withering dams. It is still a tragedy.

Finally, the coalition government has decided to do something about this crisis. Once again, it is better late than never. The Future Drought Fund was announced on the morning of the Drought Summit held in October this year. It was announced without consideration for the discussions that were about to take place at that summit. It was announced, curiously, without listening to any of the experts on the day—any of the drought affected farmers who had travelled from all over Australia to give their opinions at that summit. The Future Drought Fund was announced and then the Morrison government used the Drought Summit as a photo op, really, rather than a well overdue discussion with the people who are actually living through this disaster.

This is a government that have acted on impulse after they finally realised the drought wouldn't just go away—the rain wouldn't just miraculously come. As much as we can wish and hope, that has not been the case. The bill to establish the Future Drought Fund was only introduced in parliament last week and the $5 billion concept the government speakers are patting themselves on the back about might not even be a reality until 2029. That's over 10 years away. Instead of high-fiving each other, I encourage the government to take a leaf out of Labor's book. The first Intergovernmental Agreement on National Drought Program Reform was established by a Labor government. It expired on 1 July this year and we are yet to see a new agreement.

In question time today, the minister for agriculture said this is 'a drought that is spreading like a cancer'. I say to the minister and the government: our farming communities need more than platitudes and slogans to get them through this crisis and crises to come. They need a forward-thinking government that is willing to govern. This is not the first drought Australian farmers have experienced and, sadly, we know it won't be the last. The Morrison government, just like the Abbott and Turnbull governments before it, refuses to acknowledge that climate change will impact on our agricultural sectors. They continue to ignore our young farmers, who readily embrace the science and the concept and who know we need to make significant and deep changes to agriculture in this country. They continue to ignore Australia's changing climate and they keep slapping bandaids on the suffering of drought affected farmers and the communities that support them. These communities know it needs to be deeper and broader than what is being projected by this current government. Australia needs a long-term solution, a comprehensive drought policy that supports farmers into the future.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate TheMaitland Mercury journalist Belinda-Jane Davis on her incredible coverage of the drought in a campaign titled 'The big dry' for Fairfax papers. Her comprehensive reporting earned her a prestigious Walkley Award in the last couple of weeks for excellence in journalism, an accolade that is well deserved. In the words of Belinda-Jane, I say to farmers across Australia who are affected by this disaster: together we will get through this difficult time. BJ, thank you for your work. You raised the issue so energetically in our community and you never turned your back on our farmers. But it's going to take more than awareness campaigns. It's going to take action, it's going to take evidence and it's going to take experience that we do need to take into account. But, more than ever, it's going to take the effort of a government that will produce some action rather than just slogans.

Mr Broadbent: Deputy Speaker, there was a mistake made earlier in this particular debate. The proposer was given 10 minutes to speak. Like all members of parliament, we watch the clock to see how long we've got to go. He adhered to what the clock was saying and finished his speech after five minutes. He actually had 10, and I hope that the chamber will think it reasonable enough for the member to once again seek leave to finish his comments.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Dr McVeigh ): I thank the member for McMillan. The member for Calare.