July 10, 2019
The Federal Government’s Joint Agency Drought Taskforce was wound up at the end of last month, a situation that has left local councils across Australia querying a possible $1.1 billion discrepancy in future funding.
From June 28, responsibilities for drought policy were taken over by the Department of Agriculture.
The Australian Local Government Association – the national umbrella group for local councils – has raised concerns that placing the responsibility within Agriculture would put support for drought-affected farming at the expense of other community sectors.
The Joint Agency Drought Taskforce was created in August 2018 within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to identify roadblocks in providing support for drought-affected farmers.
It was headed by the Coordinator-General for Drought, Major-General Stephen Day, who visited numerous drought-hit communities.
The ALGA noted that during the recent opening speech in Parliament it was stated “one of the first orders of business of this 46th Parliament will be to legislate the $3.9 billion Future Drought Fund”.
However, the ALGA says that $3.9 billion figure differs to what they and other taskforce participants had been told by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
“The Australian Government has a comprehensive $7 billion plan, informed by the work of the Drought Taskforce, to respond to the ongoing challenge of drought in Australia,” correspondence from the department said.
“A key mechanism of this plan will be the $5 billion Future Drought Fund.”
The ALGA said it would continue making representations to Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud and the Agriculture Department urging that drought-hit communities not be forgotten.