National Drought Summit Statement

National Drought Summit Statement

Domestic Policy Joint Agency Drought Taskforce
Friday, 26 October 2018

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Coordinator-General for Drought, Major General Stephen Day arrive for the National Drought Summit at Old Parliament House in Canberra, Friday, October 26, 2018. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Photo: AAP Image/Lukas Coch

The Prime Minister together with Premiers and Chief Ministers at the National Drought Summit acknowledged that while Australia’s agricultural sector is healthy and productive, drought is affecting large areas of the country. In addition to taking forward ideas for improving responses to the current drought, the Prime Minister together with Premiers and Chief Ministers have committed to the following principles for drought reform:

  1. There should no longer be Exceptional Circumstances declarations or ‘lines on maps’. Instead, governments should focus on addressing the specific needs of farming families, farming businesses and farming communities.
  2. Acknowledgement that drought is just one of a number of hardships that can adversely impact farmers.
  3. Recognition of the important role of farmers as the nation’s food producers.
  4. Future farm family welfare assistance should require a level of mutual responsibility.
  5. For access to the income support system, farming families should have a temporary period of exemption from the normal assets tests for farm assets, but otherwise receive the same access rights as the wider community.
  6. Government farm business support should assist farming businesses plan and prepare for the future. Farm business support will be based on a willingness by those businesses to prepare for the impacts of drought and climate change.
  7. The role of farmers in natural resource management and their role in maintaining vibrant rural communities.
  8. The importance of maintaining and supporting the natural resource base during drought and climate change.
  9. Government policies and programs should support farming communities to prepare for drought and enhance their long term sustainability and resilience.

It was also agreed that it was critical that governments plan for the future, given that droughts are part of Australia’s landscape. To this end, the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers agreed to discuss at the COAG meeting in December a new Agreement on Drought Reform. The development of a new Agreement will be guided, but not limited by, the following objectives:

  1. Farming businesses and farming communities prepare for drought by enhancing their long term sustainability, resilience and risk management.
  2. Farming businesses and farming communities are encouraged to adopt self–reliant approaches to manage their business risks, including through improved business decision-making tools, risk management strategies, new knowledge and tools from research and development.
  3. Farming businesses and farming communities prepare for, and adapt to, climate change and variability and their effects, including drought and high temperatures.
  4. Appropriate support, that recognises the special circumstances of farming families, farming businesses and related industries, is accessible and clearly communicated to farming communities when they are in need.
  5. A coordinated and collaborative framework for jurisdictions, local government, the private sector and non-government organisations enables responses to needs during periods of drought.
  6. Access to quality, common sources of data, including an improved understanding of fodder crops and holdings across Australia and the capacity for a consistent early warning system for drought.

Watch the presentations from the National Drought Summit.