Government actions addressing the Coordinator-General for Drought’s advice

The Australian Government is working to support farmers and regional communities affected by drought.

This table maps government actions that address the advice of the Coordinator-General for Drought. Read the Coordinator-General's report to government.

1. Stewardship of important natural resources Response Status
1.1 Building on work underway, regular, comprehensive and consistent assessments of Australia’s natural resources should be undertaken to inform long term, regional natural resource management priorities to focus farm drought resilience investment and actions on the ground. Commonwealth, state and territory governments have agreed to a national strategy and action plan for Environmental-Economic Accounting. Underway
1.2 A systematic and prioritised assessment of Australia’s water resources should be undertaken to inform future management effort and investment, including:
  • evaluating each of the nation’s surface and groundwater basins; and
  • taking account of future challenges such as changes in climate, population, industry growth and environmental needs.
National Water Grid Authority Underway
2. Incentives for good practice    
2.1 A review, underpinned by robust evidence, about the effectiveness of the Farm Management Deposits (FMD) scheme should be undertaken to inform any future changes. Commission review by Treasury, ATO and the Department of Agriculture following release of ANAO performance audit. Complete. Built into the Australian Government’s Drought Response, Resilience and Preparedness Plan (the Plan)
2.2 Farm businesses should be encouraged to consider programs that provide supplementary income, such as carbon farming, environmental stewardship and renewable energy. Covered by the Emissions Reduction Fund, Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme, Clean Energy Finance Corporation and Agricultural Stewardship Package. Complete. Covered under existing programs
2.3 Research and development on drought should be strengthened through improved data collection, leadership and coordination to improve priority setting and target investment. The Australian Government has announced a modernisation of the rural research and development corporation system to ensure the system is delivering maximum value for producers and the tax payer. Underway
3. Improving planning and decision making    
3.1.1 A review of the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) should be undertaken before the next funding round to inform improvements to the program, ensure its services are sought during period of no drought, it has the capacity to respond quickly to increased demand, and address any barriers to uptake.  Review conducted in 2019 Complete
3.1.2 Financial counselling services should be extended to small businesses experiencing hardship in drought affected areas. Undertake pilot as per election commitment. Underway
3.2.1 A pilot program should be undertaken to test wrap-around support for new and long term Farm Household Allowance (FHA) recipients to make informed decisions about their futures, improve their ability to recover from significant events and transition off FHA.
The pilot should test:
  • an enhanced triage model, using an integrated, single point of access, to support early identification of goals, financial and personal, for new FHA recipients;
  • an intensive case management (ICM) model for recipients in receipt of FHA continuously for 12-18 months.  The ICM would consider all needs such as financial support, health/mental health support, and education/training. The aim is to assist farmers make long term decisions about their business viability;
  • Evaluation of the pilot with a particular focus on seeking behavioural insights into barriers/enablers to good decision making.
Based on the evaluation findings, consideration should be given to refining the FHA program.
Radical simplification of FHA, including:

Strengthening case management, including increasing the Activity Supplement to $10,000 announced on 27 September

Changing the off-farm income offset and treating agistment as primary production income

Changing the time limit on payment to four in every ten years, starting 1 July 2024

Paying one rate of payment rather than fortnightly fluctuations

A simplified assets test of $5.5 million

Removing the requirement for business income reconciliation

A significant redesign of the application process, including allowing farming couples to share information

Better case management approach to better support farmers in hardship during difficult times, including increasing the Activity Supplement to $10,000.
Noted. Partial implementation
3.2.2 A non-government organisation should be engaged to provide time-limited targeted case management for Farm Household Allowance (FHA) recipients who are coming to the end of their four year eligibility period or have exhausted their FHA allocation. Intensive case management is provided via the FHA case managers and RFCS. Noted. Provided by FHA case managers and RFCS
3.2.2 continued Consideration should be given to a time-limited one-off subsistence payment to the farmers who have exhausted their FHA allocation and are not eligible for other government assistance. This grant should be separate from FHA and the broader income support system and require a commitment by the recipient to engage in the targeted case management outlined above. Supplementary lump-sum payments announced on 17 October.

Legislation will also provide for the Minister to create a rule to provide future lump-sum payments if and when needed.  
Underway
4. Building community resilience    
4.1 A pilot program to build community leadership capability, involving the development of a local adverse event plan, should be undertaken to build communities’ capacity to adapt and cope with chronic stresses and acute shocks.The pilot should include:
  • funding for a not-for-profit organisation to work with local governments and communities to build formal and informal leadership capability within the community; and
  • a requirement for the program to deliver an adverse event plan for the community with their involvement.
The pilot should be evaluated, with the findings informing consideration of a national program.
Drought Communities Programme – the additional 13 councils announced on 27 September 2019, includes a provision for developing adverse event plans. This could be continued.

Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to deliver grants to non-for-profit community groups – projects focus on reducing social isolation, leadership development and skills training, social and educational participation and addressing disadvantage.
Noted. Partially implemented through two programs.
4.2 The Trusted Advocates Network Trial should be evaluated, with the findings informing consideration of national program to provide support for rural and regional communities. Await outcomes of the current pilot – give authority in submission for a comeback. Underway. Evaluation will be undertaken at the end of the pilot.

5.Informing farmers, communities and governments
   
5.1 Two sets of indicators should be developed, in the following priority, to better inform:
  • the Australian Government on regional and local conditions and assist drought preparation and response complemented by a response framework and
  • decisions by farmers and communities to manage and prepare for drought. 
Drought indicators will be developed to assist government to understand changing conditions and emerging impacts Underway
5.2 All government communication with farmers and rural communities on drought should be consistent with the research-backed principles at Annex 6.  Department of Agriculture to continue to chair a communications group involving other key Commonwealth agencies. Completed and ongoing
6. Governance, evaluation and review    
6.1.1 A definition of drought should be developed for internal use by Australian Government agencies to consistently direct resources and responses to farmers and communities in need. A definition of drought will not be developed due to the complexity of defining how drought occurs across a landmass as large and diverse as Australia.

Drought indicators will be developed to assist government to understand changing conditions and emerging impacts
Noted. Drought indicators are being developed.      
6.1.2 The Australian Government should work with state and territory governments to better align the criteria to prove primary producer status for access to government programs and incentives to reduce red tape in the agricultural sector. The Department of Agriculture to work with state and territory senior officials via the Agriculture Senior Official Committee (AGSOC). Underway
6.2.1 The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources should lead the development and implementation of a drought strategy and drive whole of government engagement on drought.  The Plan has been developed and will be continually reviewed. Underway
6.2.2 The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources should report annually to Government on the implementation of a drought strategy and review the strategy after three years in consultation with other Ministers responsible for implementing recommendations. The Minister for Drought will report annually to Cabinet on the implementation of this Plan and other drought measures. The Plan will be reviewed in 2022–23. Underway
6.3 The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources should continue to convene a cross government drought forum to manage consistent and comprehensive communications. Department of Agriculture to continue to chair a Communications Group involving other key Commonwealth agencies. Complete and ongoing

 

 

 

 

 

Last reviewed: 11 November 2019
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