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PM visits Qld to discuss progress of drought policy

25 November, 2008

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke recently visited Emerald in central Queensland to discuss interim findings from the national review of drought policy.

They met with Peter Kenny, head of the panel appointed by the Rudd Government to examine the social impact of drought, and President of AgForce in Queensland.

The Government commissioned the social panel report in June, along with an economic assessment by the Productivity Commission and a scientific report from the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO.

The Prime Minister discussed the social panel’s initial findings about the impact of drought on individuals, families and rural communities.

The Rudd Government understands that this drought has had a terrible social impact on many communities.

Climate change could place even more strain on hard-working families on the land, so we must act now to better prepare for future challenges.

Burke said that Government was committed to reforming the system in consultation with rural communities and welcomed their extensive input so far.

The panel held 25 public meetings across the country, including in Alice Springs (NT), Inverell, Bourke, Gilgandra, Forbes, Griffith and Goulburn (NSW), Esperance, Morawa, Wongan Hills and Merredin (WA), Shepparton, Birchip, Mildura and Colac (VIC), Bothwell (TAS), Gatton, Dalby, Charleville, Longreach and Emerald (QLD), Keith, Gawler, Orroroo and Wudinna (SA).

More than 1,000 people attended the meeting, and in addition the panel has received more than 236 public submissions.

According to the panel’s early findings, the current system of drought support is failing farming communities because it is too heavily focussed on supporting businesses, rather than people.

Key early findings from the panel include:

  • An absence of coordination has emerged over more than a decade, involving a wide range of local, state and federal drought support services;
  • Support services often overlap, leaving gaps in critical areas such as mental health;
  • There is a need to plan better for social wellbeing and encourage personal development training;
  • There is a need to plan for ‘dryness’ as a permanent condition in many parts of Australia.

Kenny said the panel’s visits to rural communities had allowed many farmers to have a direct say in Government policy-making for the first time.

The social panel will meet again this week to continue its work and is expected to provide a final report to the Government within a few weeks.

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