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Drought social impact report welcomed.

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The Hon John Cobb MP Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

The Coalition today thanked Peter Kenny and his Committee for the at times heart wrench work they did on the report: It’s About People: Changing Perspectives A Report to Government by an Expert Social Panel On Dryness.

With the most drought affected electorate in the Nation I am only too aware of the devastating impact that drought is having on our rural communities, the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, John Cobb said today.

“There is no doubt that farmers in the main are very appreciative of the support they receive from taxpayers, however, as the report highlights there is more that can be done, especially in relation to the social impacts of the drought on farmers, their families and importantly the agriculture communities.

“During the launch of the report this morning, Peter Kenny spoke powerfully of the emotional toll the drought has and is having on our people.

“Mr Kenny also highlighted the growing divide between the people who produce the best, cleanest and safest food in the world, their communities and government (State and Federal) and some of our city cousins.

Mr Cobb said in particular farmers can survive the drought but the final straw for many is the onerous regulations and at times ridiculous comments made by people outside of agriculture.

“For example the constant criticism of irrigators and claims by some that they are water wasters, when they have invested money, sweat and tears into building one of the most efficient irrigation industries in the world in turn producing the safest, greenest and cleanest food for our tables is both unfair and totally out of line.

“I note the report is big on being prepared for future droughts and I strongly support these sentiments.

“However, under no circumstances should the Drought Exceptional Circumstances arrangements be put aside whilst the current drought is still biting so hard.

“At the moment I am very concerned about people in areas where EC has been removed, such as the Brewarrina district. Since being removed from EC the district has recorded its driest six months on record and without any transitional support they are struggle to cope. More needs to be done for them.

Mr Cobb said he strongly believed that drought preparedness and the water policy in the nation should be strongly linked.

“This is why I get so frustrated when I see the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Minister for Agriculture, Mr Burke obviously being ignored in the formulation of the Rudd Government’s water policies.

“It is particularly galling to see the Rudd Government produce a report like this, which spells out the social devastation of this monster drought yet have the Minister for Climate Change and Water claim they don’t need to provide any structural adjustment or do a socio-economic impact statement prior to buying water our of communities.

“The best way we can prepare for future dry spells is to modernise our on-farm and irrigation water delivery systems, to increase production and increase the amount of water available to the environment without decimating our country communities and jeopardising the Nations food security.

Mr Cobb said the Rudd Government should immediately suspend all of its current water buy back tenders and use the $3.6 billion allocated for the buy backs to fund water infrastructure and water savings for the Murray Darling Basin.

“An immediate cash injection of $480 million (allocated to current buyback tenders) into country communities to improve on farm irrigation efficiencies and delivery systems would provide much needed jobs and would have a positive impact on country communities.

“This is exactly the sort of package Agriculture Minister, Tony Burke should be advocating. His core constituents are farmers and the communities they live in, surely it is time he started representing them.

“Under the Rudd Governments current agricultural and water policies our communities are in danger of going from a devastating climatic drought straight into a Rudd made drought,” Mr Cobb said.