In what must be a new low, the Queensland Government is attempting to subvert the forward-looking Future Drought Fund announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison last month to score cheap political points.
With two-thirds of Queensland in the grip of the worst drought on record, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has issued a media release demanding the Federal Government immediately release part of the $5 billion set aside for the revolutionary Future Drought Fund to provide emergency measures now.
“Either the Premier doesn’t comprehend the concept of a future fund or she is being politically mischievous at the expense of thousands of farmers across the State currently crippled by drought,” AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said.
“While measures to support drought-affected farmers and rural communities are required now – and we acknowledge the generosity of both State and Federal Governments, not to mention ordinary Australians, in this regard – it would be rash, a backwards step to undermine our ability to manage future droughts to do so.
“The Future Drought Fund is a revolutionary approach to drought management. It is a $5 billion investment in our children’s future, with interest earnt providing money in perpetuity for drought preparedness and resilience programs at no cost to the community.
“To have this eroded by a government for their own political ends is unbelievable.
“Some of the projects the Fund will realise will provide genuine environmental outcomes, such as better managing landscapes and addressing climate change.
“These projects reflect the agriculture industry’s desire to play a great role in managing environment and climate, and for a Government that rates its environmental credentials, it’s not a good look.”
Mr Guerin said the agriculture industry had been waiting for decades for a Government of any persuasion with the will and foresight to take a long-term approach to drought preparedness.
“The entire industry will be furious if the State Government is allowed to touch a single dollar of that investment,” he said.
“And for the Premier to dress her demand up as if she is acting in the interests of droughted farmers is disingenuous at best and entirely wrong.
“Not just droughted farmers and rural communities will be negatively impacted but his, but all Australians.”
Mr Guerin said governments needed to fundamentally change its mindset that support can only be provided while in the grip of a drought.
“Prevention is almost always better than a cure,” he said.
“Facilitating producers and communities to develop and implement their own programs that deliver environmental outcomes, help them survive extreme weather and build stronger, more sustainable agribusinesses is much more efficient, effective, empowering and intelligent than offering social security payments.”
Mr Guerin said that instead of trying to pick holes in Federal drought initiatives, the Queensland Government should take a hard look at its own record, including its ongoing failure to invest adequately in water infrastructure.”