House debates

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Questions without Notice


2:15 pm

Photo of Meryl SwansonMeryl Swanson (Paterson, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. The Coordinator-General for Drought, Major General Stephen Day, delivered his final report in April to the Prime Minister. Why does the Prime Minister insist on keeping this important report a secret, despite the ongoing drought crisis in Australia?

Photo of Scott MorrisonScott Morrison (Cook, Liberal Party, Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question. The coordinator-general, in undertaking what he did for us on drought, has been informing all of the responses the government has been making to that drought. The government is at the moment finalising its full response to that report. When we provide that response, we will be releasing that report, and that is in the not-too-distant future. What you will see when you see that report is the extensive implementation of the issues that have been raised by the coordinator-general in informing the government's drought response. That included the coordinator-general bringing together early on in the piece the National Drought Summit. That National Drought Summit brought people together from all across the country—state and territory premiers and chief ministers, those from the agricultural sector, scientists, government agencies and others involved—and informed the government's response. It was also those involved in the trucking and freight industry.

Following that drought summit, one of the most important things we did very early on was upgrade and update the National Drought Agreement between the Commonwealth and the states and the territories. What that set out was ensuring that the management of animal welfare is addressed by the states and territories but the management of the welfare of farmers and rural communities is managed by the Commonwealth. That's why we have moved to ensure that the farm household allowance now is the most generous it has been in its entire history, and that includes ensuring that, just over four years, a farming family would receive $125,000 over the course of being on the farm household allowance. In addition to that, we have relaxed the eligibility requirements so they would get that four out of every 10 years. What we inherited from our predecessors was three forever. We've upgraded that to four for every 10. We've invested in district communities all around the country that are affected by drought, with $1 million going into each of those shire councils to ensure that their economies are being supported and we are keeping people in work—to ensure we can support those communities and their economy and their wellbeing.

Of course, longer term, we've been investing in the resilience of Australia to future droughts with our investment in water infrastructure projects. There is $1½ billion in grant funding going into 21 projects right now. On top of that, there is $3½ billion—over and above that—investing in water infrastructure to provide further resilience around the country. That is also supported with research and science, amongst the many things that are supported by the draw-down of the Future Drought Fund. We have a comprehensive response to drought. That comprehensive response, which is not set and forget, we will continue to add to. It continues to be informed by the excellent work of the coordinator-general, and I look forward to releasing that report, along with the government's full response.