• Hannah Phillips

Dealing with the Drought


Barnaby Joyce was appointed as a special envoy for the drought and he wasted no time in illustrating the severity of the lack of rainfall: this year Tamworth had received less rain than Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Joyce has called for environmental water flows in the Murray Darling region to be diverted to farmers growing feedstock for cattle.

He said that the drought should be treated as an emergency like a bushfire, which would enable water to be taken without permission.

Mr Joyce also called for new provisions to allow for farmers to clear mulga trees to feed to livestock – a process the states have attempted to limit in order to reduce land clearing.

Environmentalists have strongly opposed Mr Joyce’s proposal.

Delivering Water Security

Last week the Productivity Commission delivered two reports: a report on the National Water Initiative and a draft assessment of the Murray Darling Basin (MDB) Plan.


These took on an extra piquancy as a consequence of the drought and claims by the new drought envoy, Barnaby Joyce, that water reserved for environmental flows should be reallocated for the production of fodder to supply drought stricken farmers.

The conclusion of the report on the National Water Initiative is that the country has developed a management plan that is adequate to deal with the drought.

There are, however, issues that need to be dealt with: the fact that water is now deemed to be a financial asset means water allocations can be used as collateral for loans which restricts the capacity of some owners to release the water to the spot market where it could be used for drought relief.

The other issue is that state governments, which have been lax in their administration, have allowed a level of corruption to creep in.

The Productivity Commission maintains that the Murray Darling Plan should be persisted with.

It maintains that there is sufficient water to meet environmental and agricultural needs however the signatory governments will have to implement their supply plans, which increase the efficiency of water distribution, if the overall plan is to be successful.

John McDonnell

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