Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government has confirmed that it is putting away up to $5bn in future funds to help enable the agricultural sector to become more resistant to droughts.
This year saw many crops and livestock wiped out by severe droughts and extreme weather, and the government had to intervene at the time to provide enough funds and liquidity to keep farms and key local supply chains functioning.
Without this, several farms may have collapsed, which could have massively affected Australia’s entire export strategy. On the basis of agriculture’s importance to the nation and especially a big voter belt that could have a huge say in the next election, the government has confirmed that it will try and prevent similar issues from happening in the future.
Morrison has labeled the plan ‘putting money aside for non-rainy days’ as he pitches his worth to the regional communities that rely on agriculture and looks to rebuild some of the trust that the government lost due to its slow response to the 2018 droughts.
The Drought Future Fund officially launches on Friday and will release $100m worth of grants every year from 2020, with this money coming from the bigger pot that Morrison announced.
In ten years’ time, the fund will hopefully have ballooned and reached the $5bn figure originally stated.
With the national drought summit happening this Friday, Morrison’s speech at the event in Canberra will discuss how the government will work on delivering better water infrastructure and making the regional economies more resilient to droughts.
Initial funding and infrastructure will hopefully be in place before the next drought hits and grow rapidly, as a drought looks to be on the horizon.
The funding pot itself will be under the management of a board led by Peter Costello, the previous Treasurer in the Howard government.
Morrison said: ‘This funding will support farmers and their local communities when it’s not raining. It guarantees drought support for the men and women who drive our nation.’
This work has been in place for some time and, as a relatively new Prime Minister, Morrison has been looking to shore up support in key areas to deliver an effective drought response ahead of time.
These new funds will join the $1.8bn already allocated to Eastern Australia to try and manage its crippling lack of rainfall, as well as focus on both social and economic recovery in regional locations after a drought. Implementing a drought strategy for the long term is also high on the list.
The fund has been based on the Medical Research Future Fund, created during the Abbott government, and it will center on how direct grants can help alleviate the need for increased government aid in a drought’s aftermath.
Each May’s federal budget will confirm who will receive grants, and $3.9bn will initially transfer from the Building Australia fund, which concerns infrastructure. For this to pass, it will need to go through parliament as a piece of legislation and will require key Labor support.
Morrison has made it clear that preventing droughts and reacting more rapidly in their wake is taking a more prominent place in his government. He said that it is vital to ‘deal with the here and now, but also make sure we plan for the future.’