Throwing money at farmers won’t solve the drought
Throwing money at farmers for drought relief is "palliative care" that will do little to resolve the crisis in Australia that is expected to get hotter, drier and more desperate, one of the country's leading water research centres has warned.
And Australia is in urgent need of an independent national water and land commission-style agency - such as what was abolished in 2014 - to manage the crisis and prepare for future harsher events.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday announced a $1 billion rescue package for farmers including interest free loans to buy feed, fences and pay for transport but while welcomed, the Centre for Water Economics, Environment & Policy said it was the wrong sort of aid.
The director of the ANU-based leading policy centre Professor Quentin Grafton said the package was not thinking long term and would be naive to imagine things would suddenly improve by the time the money is spent.
"The name itself suggests what's going on, it's drought relief not drought solution and doesn't offer anything but palliative care essentially," Prof Grafton said.
"It's providing an ability for a helping hand but doesn't get to the fundamental causes - those causes are it is getting hotter in Australia, this is now indisputable and you only have to look at the climate record, it is getting hotter, that's higher rates of evaporation, that's almost certainly due to climate change so we can expect these events of drought to increase in magnitude."
Professor Grafton said irrespective of emission reductions debate, Australia needed to exercise "climate adaptation", look for land management and sustainability policies, look for other forms of feed such as native grasses and look at water extraction reductions.
He said it was ironic also as there was a crisis on the land the rates of land clearing, particularly in NSW, was going up at record levels.
"Clearly we are not getting it right, the co-ordination at state and federal level and clearly we are not thinking through what is causing this and how can we get some long-term better outcomes," he said.
Former Prime Minister John Howard working with State and territory COAG partners created a National Water Commission in 2004 to secure water resource allocation but it was abolished in 2014.
"Australia is crying out in need for something like that, an agency that has expertise that can provide advice and guidance and identification and transparency of gaps and failings at state and territory level and indeed the federal level," Prof Grafton said.
"It has to be independent, you can't have that in the Department of Agriculture, a commission that criticises its own minister that doesn't work."