CWA mystified after questions go unanswered

CWA mystified after questions go unanswered at Q&A drought special

Opinion
The CWA of NSW says the high number of families on the Farm Household Allowance should signal to MP David Littleproud that the process has serious problems.

The CWA of NSW says the high number of families on the Farm Household Allowance should signal to MP David Littleproud that the process has serious problems.

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"The Q and A on drought last Monday didn't give anywhere near enough attention on drought policy".

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We attended last Monday's Q and A on drought and walked away a little frustrated to be honest.

The CWA of NSW were approached to be in the audience and our questions were shortlisted but unfortunately we did not get the chance to ask them on air.

Our main question was for the minister for drought. Firstly, we make the point that the federal government's Drought Summit was just over a year ago.

There was some hope that this day would lead to some decent policy outcomes for those facing drought.

Unfortunately many of the people we speak for (who were not at the ABC recording studios in Ultimo on Monday night) are losing or have lost that hope.

Issues that we have witnessed being kicked about like policy footballs since that day include; the Farm Household Allowance (FHA), re-planting and re-stocking loans, charity funding, and a national drought policy.

Firstly, the FHA. The federal government's review was announced in October last year, off the back of sustained complaints about the process from many stakeholders.

A suite of recommendations was made during that review.

There were some efforts recently to start the reform process, but in practicality, for most farmers, all that has happened is that the questions to be answered have dropped from approximately 90 to about 70 questions.

Minister Littleproud has stated that there are 3000 to 4000 families on the FHA. This number alone should signal that the process has serious problems.

Secondly, the re-planting and re-stocking concessional loans, which were committed to in the lead up to this year's election, and yet six months on we still have not seen any detail.

Thirdly, funding for charities, like ours, to augment the amazing generosity shown by the Australian public for assistance for essential household items is constantly held up on bureaucratic processes and our questions on accessing funding often go unanswered.

And fourthly, looking into the future, we have no comprehensive national drought policy in place, no feedback on the consultation process that Major General Day ably undertook in consulting regional communities about their needs, and no sign of his report or any other overarching communication from the government on what their strategy is for the here and now, and the future.

The pace of reform and action on what is a national crisis is unbelievably glacial. Why do we only get decent attention on these matters when a tipping of political pressure is reached?

We know the government can't make it rain, they remind us of that all the time, but they can and should deliver on promises in a timely fashion.

The Q and A on drought last Monday didn't give anywhere near enough attention on these important policy issues.

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