Opinion || Building confidence during tough times || Barnaby Joyce

New England MP Barnaby Joyce.
New England MP Barnaby Joyce.

Drought from biblical times in the Old Testament has required the coordination of a competent government to mollify the worst of its effects.

Grain was stored by the pharaoh in the good seasons to prepare for the bad and Jacob assisted with the plan. Now I am no Jacob but I look forward with a genuine enthusiasm to do my part in assisting where I can. 

In its most basic, it is making ends meet for stock needs and future crop planting requirements. People have always asked why I bang on about dams; it is in times like these you see why. We don't want sheep to perish in a ship but they are at far more risk in a paddock in a drought area at present.

So let's go through some of the basic requirements.

You need about six kilograms of lucerne equivalent feed to maintain a dry beast of 400 kilograms for a day. Five million head of cattle in drought means we have to provide about 30 thousand tonnes of feed a day. It is no surprise that we have basically run out in South East Australia, and don’t forget we have sheep to feed on top of that.

Towns also dislike the idea that drought equals "only the farmer". The money in the “drought towns” dries up as well because in drought it’s the discretionary expenditure first, then things like clothes, hairdresser, cafes and restaurants.

We should also look to bring forward capital works programs to stimulate local regional economies. During drought it is the best time to start on road works, build dog fences and dare I say it, construct dams. A major road project can keep a town going with the motels booked and the meals selling from the local hotel.

Nationally, it was the driest Autumn since 1902, according to the Bureau. It has been reported that all of NSW, and about 60 per cent of Queensland is in drought, and rainfall deficiencies have increased in both extent and severity for almost all of NSW, inland southern Queensland and northern Victoria.

In a bushfire the brigade has special powers during times of emergency. This drought is an emergency and emergencies require special powers and decisive and immediate action.

We have to do things that at other times we would not contemplate like re-evaluating our environmental water assets.

And politically we need the political chamber to be the battle of policy on how to deal with the drought of now.

This challenge and response at the dispatch box sharpens policy and provides a better outcome for those most affected.