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Drought policy for Australia's future.



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The Hon. Tony Burke MP Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Drought policy for Australia's future

23 April 2008 DAFF08/046B

The Rudd Government will conduct a comprehensive national review of drought policy through three separate investigations, to help prepare farmers and local communities for climate change.

Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke has announced the details of the review, following discussions with his state and territory colleagues in Melbourne last week.

The review will include:

• an economic assessment of drought support measures by the Productivity Commission, with terms of reference to be finalised in the next few weeks

• an expert panel, led by an eminent Australian, to assess the social impacts of drought • the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO to undertake a detailed scientific examination of likely future climate patterns and the

current Exceptional Circumstances standard of a one-in-20-to-25-year-event.

“If droughts become longer and more frequent, farmers may not qualify for drought support under the current definition of an exceptional event, because it may not be something that only occurs every 20-to-25-years,” Mr Burke said.

“Commonwealth and state and territory governments agreed in Cairns that drought policy should be reviewed as a key priority for 2008.

“This is about looking to the future and helping our rural and regional communities better prepare for the challenges and opportunities ahead.

“After detailed discussion with the states and territories, the drought review has been focused around these three key areas, to give us the information needed to drive better drought policy.

“The idea of reviewing drought policy was backed by many submissions and discussions as part of the Australia 2020 summit in Canberra.

“In the face of climate change and increasing global pressures on food supply, now is the time to make sure we continue to build a resilient and adaptable farming sector.

“A priority theme from the Australia 2020 rural stream was: ‘The challenges posed by climate change, with particular emphasis on its impacts on the food, fibre and forestry value chains’.

“It is also important to reiterate that this review will not affect anyone currently receiving drought support; their assistance will continue unchanged.”

Mr Burke will write to all the states and territories this week outlining the process, including on-going consultation on panel members for the review of the social impact of drought.

Terms of reference for the Productivity Commission review are expected to be released next month.

Progress will be discussed at the next Primary Industries Ministerial Council meeting in November, with the aim of having an improved drought policy in place by July 2009.