House debates

Thursday, 23 October 2008



4:45 pm

Photo of Chris TrevorChris Trevor (Flynn, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Tonight I want to talk about the release of the social expert panel report on the review of national drought policy. The social expert panel report was received by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Hon. Tony Burke MP, and was released to the public on 23 October 2008. The Australian government will utilise the panel’s report to inform its development of improved drought policy to help farm families, rural businesses and communities to better prepare for drought and a changing climate. The Australian government is committed to improving drought policy, with announcements expected to form part of the government’s 2009-10 budget.

The report makes 37 recommendations. The recommendations are wide-ranging and aimed at Australian state and territory governments, as well as non-government organisations, farm families and rural communities. The report states that drought has negative impacts on the wellbeing of farm families and exacerbates underlying impacts arising from longer term socio-demographic trends that are contributing to decline for some rural populations. The report calls for a new national approach to living with drought rather than dealing with drought. It recommends that governments focus future policy on the social wellbeing of farm families, rural businesses and communities and improving their capacity to live with drought. It proposes that this be achieved through the encouragement of holistic planning, which includes family, personal and environmental considerations. It suggests that this constitute a prerequisite, or mutual responsibility, for government assistance. The report stresses the importance of the social wellbeing of farm families, rural businesses and communities and the role of governments to encourage them to improve their capacity to live with dry periods, noting that better social outcomes can provide better economic and environmental outcomes.

The panel was appointed by Minister Burke on 2 June 2008. I thank Minister Burke for his leadership on this issue. I would like to thank the social panel members: Peter Kenny from Queensland, the past president of AgForce; Mal Peters from New South Wales; Professor Daniela Stehlik from Western Australia; Barry Wakelin from South Australia; Sue West from New South Wales; and Lesley Young from Tasmania. I take this opportunity to thank everybody else involved, including support staff. I thank the panel for visiting my electorate of Flynn in Central Queensland, an electorate with extensive farming interests and with businesses and communities which rely on those farming interests. I take this opportunity to thank the Rudd Labor government and Minister Burke for their leadership on this issue for rural and regional Australia, including the residents of my electorate of Flynn.

The government is undertaking a major review of drought policy. The review has the support of the opposition and independent MPs. As I said earlier in this speech, this morning, 23 October, Tony Burke launched the social expert panel report. For the first time ever, the panel challenged us to look at drought policy differently. We need to reward those farmers who plan for the future. We need to be reminded that this review is about future droughts. Those individuals who are receiving assistance under the current rules will continue to receive assistance. This report has offered new pathways for us to look at better preparing our families for the next drought.


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