Key drought review must be released, LNP says

Drought Program Review still not released a month after report was finished


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Ruth Wade and Charles Burke finalised their drought program review report at the end of January.

Ruth Wade and Charles Burke finalised their drought program review report at the end of January.

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The independent panel finished its report in January.

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A review that will shape Queensland's future drought preparation is in limbo, with the state Cabinet yet to consider the report more than a month after it was received.

In late January the independent panel appointed to review Queensland's drought program delivered their recommendations to state Agriculture Minister Mark Furner.

Almost six weeks later the report has still not been publicly released, with Mr Furner saying Cabinet needed to consider it carefully first.

"The Drought Program Review report covers important issues, including the way drought declarations are made, and is being carefully considered by the state government," Mr Furner said.

"It will also be considered by Cabinet and released after Cabinet’s deliberations."

Mr Furner did not give a time frame for when the report would be made public.

LNP agriculture spokesman Tony Perrett said Mr Furner needed to be transparent about when the report would be released.

"Queenslanders dealing with the ongoing drought deserve to know what is in this report," he said.

"While parts of North Queensland have benefited from significant rainfall, many rural and regional communities continue to suffer from the prolonged dry.

"An independent report into the effectiveness of Queensland's drought programs cannot be buried and hidden from the public."

Mr Perrett compared the process surrounding the drought review program to the closure of the Queensland Agricultural Training Colleges organisation late last year.

In that case the state government sat on a report into the future of the colleges for at least four months, before announcing in early December that colleges in Longreach and Emerald would be closed.

The drought review program was announced by Mr Furner in late August last year.

"...with drought foremost in people’s minds, right now is the best time to work with industry and the community to review government, industry and community actions through this drought and to consider and recommend improvements for coping in future," he said at the time.

“All too often reviews have been conducted well after droughts are over and lessons are forgotten.”

Ruth Wade, the former chief executive of the Queensland Farmers’ Federation, and Charles Burke, the former head of AgForce, were appointed to lead the review and run six community forums across the state.

One of the issues considered in the review has been the function of local drought committees, a topic of some contention in recent months. 

In August last year Mr Furner was forced to defend his decision to take 11 regional areas off the drought-declared list, saying he was acting on advice from local drought committees.

In September last year Central Highlands mayor Kerry Hayes said it was unclear how regional councils could instruct their local drought committees to convene outside of regular meetings typically scheduled for the end of the wet season. 

“Who makes the call? Is it DAF? Is it the committee’s chair? Or is it triggered by the number of Individual Droughted Property declarations that are received?" he said at the time.

“This probably needs a refresh so everyone is clear.”

Mr Perrett said local councils needed clarity on the process. 

Mr Furner said the work of local drought committees would continue as normal.

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