Sat, 09 Dec 2023

CANBERRA, Sept. 27 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government's Future Drought Fund (FDF) is in need of a major overhaul to deliver a lasting benefit, a report has found.

The federal government's principal advisory body, the Productivity Commission, on Tuesday published its review of the legislation that set up the 5 billion Australian dollar (3.1 billion U.S. dollar) FDF, recommending an overhaul to focus on activities that build long-term drought resilience.

Established in 2019 by the former government, the FDF was designed to provide 100 million Australian dollars (63.9 million U.S. dollars) in annual funding to help farmers prepare for drought and build regional resilience.

The Productivity Commission review, which was commissioned by Treasurer Jim Chalmers in January, found the fund is a "solid foundation" to build resilience, but that more targeted programs are needed to deliver transformational change.

"Drought and climate change are expected to put Australia's agricultural industries and regional communities under mounting economic, environmental and social pressure," the report said.

"A stronger focus on activities that generate lasting public benefits is needed. The FDF should focus on activities that generate transformational change, build natural capital, and support a place-based approach to building social resilience," it said.

"Drought is just one of the risks from climate change that farmers and agricultural communities face. While drought should remain the focus, the FDF should explicitly recognize climate change resilience to confirm that, where appropriate, programs address a broader range of climatic risks," it added.

In a speech to the National Drought Forum on Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Murray Watt warned Australia is entering a period of "much drier conditions," promising a renewed government focus on drought resilience.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology data released earlier in September, national rainfall in August was 49.5 percent below the long-term average, making it the 10th-driest August since 1900.

It warned that below-average rainfall is likely or very likely for regions of western, eastern, northern and southern Australia for the September to November period.

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