Pre Drought Policy Period in Australia

Until 1989, drought was considered to be a natural disaster and drought relief was provided in accordance with state disaster relief policy. From the late 1930s, the commonwealth government became progressively more involved in natural disaster relief through a series of ad hoc arrangements with the states and special purpose legislation such as that passed in the mid-1960s to provide drought relief to New South Wales and Queensland.

In 1971, disaster relief arrangements were revised by the commonwealth government and a formula established under which the commonwealth shared the cost of natural disaster relief with the States. This arrangement has continued with a number of minor administrative amendments. In 1989, the commonwealth government decided that drought would no longer be covered by these natural disaster relief arrangements. The main impetus for this decision was budgetary; drought was accounting for the largest proportion of disaster relief expenditure, and there was suspicion that the Queensland state government was manipulating the scheme for electoral advantage. The commonwealth Minister for Finance claimed that the Queensland government was using the scheme as "as a sort of National Party slush fund" (Walsh,

In 1989 the commonwealth government set up the Drought Policy Review Task Force to identify policy options to encourage primary producers and other segments of rural Australia to adopt self-reliant approaches to the management of drought, consider the integration of drought policy with other relevant policy issues, and advise on priorities for commonwealth government action in minimizing the effects of drought in the rural sector (Drought Policy Review Task Force,

1990). The task force reported in 1990 and recommended against reinstating drought in the natural disaster relief arrangements. They concluded that drought was a natural part of the Australian farmer's operating environment and should be managed like any other business risk. The report recommended the establishment of a national drought policy based on principles of self-reliance and risk management, with any assistance to be provided in an adjustment context, to be based on a loans-only policy and to permit the income support needs of rural households to be addressed in more extreme situations (Drought Policy Review Task Force, 1990).

Continue reading here: The National Drought Policy

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