26 September 2023

Address to National Drought Forum, Rockhampton

Thank you, Oli, for that lovely introduction.

I’d like to acknowledge the Darumbal People as the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet –

Their elders, customs, and traditions.

Traditional Darumbal society lived in the belief of oneness.

Where everyone and everything was related.

Today, we want to foster a similar kind of oneness through constitutional recognition in The Voice –

And I thank those who support the better listening and better outcomes it will provide.

Today is the start of a big week in regional Queensland for me and Senator Anthony Chisholm –

As a Queenslander I’m lucky enough to get to spend plenty of time in the bush and every time I do, I get so much out of it.

Because it allows me to speak with people right across Queensland about the Government’s plan –

And what it means for their industries, communities, and families.

Over the next few days, we’re travelling over 3,000 km across our beautiful state on a regional listening tour –

Covering a huge range of primary and regional industries.

From Brisbane this morning to Rockhampton for the Belmont Research station and CQU’s impressive school of mining –

To the cattle yards of Longreach –

The sheep farms of Winton –

And the new Port facilities in Bundy.

Here in Rocky today, I have a few jobs to do –

I’m going to tell you about the latest Treasury numbers on what we’re expecting weather‑wise and the economic impact of climate –

Talk you through the very first Productivity Commission review of the Future Drought Fund and how we can make the Fund work better for you –

And I’m going to introduce my friend, our agriculture minister, and a big advocate for our regions and for Queensland – Murray Watt.

When it comes to managing change –

Queenslanders know that you’ve got to deal with what’s in front of you, while also preparing for what’s coming around the bend.

Our government works in the same way.

Whether it’s The Voice



Or drought preparedness –

We’re focused on meeting our immediate responsibilities to get people through tough times –

And our generational responsibility to prepare for the future.

That’s why we’re here today for the National Drought Forum –

To continue building –

Connecting –

And partnering.

They’re fitting themes for this forum, because they encompass so much of how we’re going to get this right –

Murray, Anthony, the whole Albanese Government –

Wants to partner and work with everybody here today –

Queensland state MP’s Mark Furner, Barry O’Rourke, and Brittany Lauga –

Tony Williams, Mayor of Rockhampton

The Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry –

Fiona Simson, Tony Mahar, and the National Farmer’s Federation –

Representatives from primary industries, community organisations, our banking sector –

To make sure we make this decade a defining one for Australian agriculture.

I want to thank you all for the chance to say a few words today.

But more importantly to thank you for the opportunities you create in your communities and their contribution to the national economy.

Yesterday we released Working Future, our Employment White Paper in Adelaide.

The White Paper is a roadmap for ensuring more Australians can make the most of the big shifts underway in our economy and society over the coming decades.

Where more people have the opportunity for secure, fairly paid work in a country where workers, employers and businesses can thrive.

A big part of that is making sure our people, communities and businesses in our regions are set up to withstand the challenges and reap the benefits of change ahead.

We come to that task with Australian agriculture in a position of relative strength –

Because so much of our national prosperity is generated by the bush –

As a Queenslander I take special pride in that.

In the last financial year, agricultural production contributed a record $92 billion to our economy.

Across the trade sector, agricultural, fisheries and forestry exports were $83 billion.

An incredible result after some tough years.

But we know it is going to get harder.

Last week the Bureau of Meteorology declared an El Nino, which means drier days and tougher growing conditions over the next 12 months –

And as our climate warms into the future –

Potentially by 1.9 degrees here in Queensland over the coming three decades –

We know that our farmers are on the front line.

But you are resilient and innovative, and the Government is ready to support you.

Because we understand and take the big issues seriously –

We aren’t just governing for the cities, the suburbs, or the safe electorates –

This Government governs for the whole country –

Because when the regions prosper, so does Australia.

That’s why we set up the climate change modelling team at Treasury –

To better understand what’s coming at us, how it might impact you –

And to make our response as effective as possible.

The latest analysis out of Treasury tells us that disasters and a warming climate have big, economy wide effects.

The black summer bushfires and October 2022 floods cost the Australian economy around $1.5 billion each.

And the latest projections also show the significant impact that climate change could have on our regions.

If further action isn’t taken, Australian crop yields could be 4 per cent lower by 2063 –

Costing us about $1.8 billion in GDP in today’s dollars.

All this means that the challenge of climate is global in scope –

But regional in impact.

This understanding underpins and informs everything that we do –

With the core goal of helping our regions manage this challenge, while maximising opportunity.

We are setting up a Net Zero Authority designed to help workers in the regions seize the opportunities of the net zero transformation.

We’ve invested some $40 billion in the energy transformation over our last two Budgets –

Decarbonising our grid, building new clean industries –

And putting in place a disclosure regime which will help investors identify opportunities while not putting undue burden on our farmers – always working in partnership.

We’ve made investments in disaster preparedness providing up to $1 billion over the next five years through the Disaster Ready Fund.

And we’ve increased Services Australia support on the ground.

This is on top of supporting the states’ and territories’ responses under Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

All these things are really important –

And they’re making a big impact on the Budget – especially when it comes to our disaster response.

Commonwealth funding under the DRFA for severe events has increased by 433 per cent over just 3 years –

And what was $335 million in Commonwealth spending on disaster recovery in 2017‑18, has become around $2.5 billion in 2022‑23.

So, the pressure of a changing climate and more frequent natural disasters is constant, cascading, and cumulative.

We’re helping you respond and prepare –

To find opportunities within the challenge –

But there’s more to do –

Especially when it comes to drought.

That’s why today, we released the Productivity Commission’s first review of the Future Drought Fund.

While the Fund is still relatively new it has already had a significant impact in regional communities –

Providing $100 million each year to support farmers and communities build drought resilience.

But we want to make sure it’s working for the future too.

The PC’s report highlights that drought is just one part of the larger climate change picture –

That means we need to focus not just on drought resilience, but broader climate change resilience too.

As a continuous fund, the FDF is best placed to meet that need for the regions when it focuses on long‑term programs that deliver transformational change.

The report also said the fund could include more integrated programs and better knowledge sharing.

We agree, and that’s why we want to share information more widely and effectively to help prepare communities for the changes that may be required in the long run–

And the report outlines how this might be achieved.

By engaging in collaborative planning that gives farmers and communities a say on changes at the regional level –

And supporting farmers to adopt new technologies and ways of working.

Whether it’s:

New production systems –

Or shifting supply chain infrastructure up or down stream –

Native revegetation projects –

Or conservation corridors

We want the fund to help establish the building blocks for helping our regions adapt to our changing climate –

To catalyse locally led change and focus on actions that generate lasting public benefits.

Later this morning, Murray and I are meeting with newly appointed FDF Consultative Committee members to ensure regional voices are heard and the fund is working for you.

All this is about partnering with our regions and bringing them with us so that they’re ready for both the challenges and chances of the future.

Because that’s what our government is about –

Setting up our regions to be the beneficiaries of the big shifts underway in the economy over the coming decades –

Managing the risk of climate while making the most of the industrial opportunities the energy transformation will create –

And governing for every person in every part of the country.

It’s great to have so many brilliant people and our government here today to help plot the way forward–

Including my friend and your champion, Minister Murray Watt

Murray is one of the most forceful and effective advocates in government.

He makes a huge contribution to our Cabinet considerations and he’s always putting your views to us.

That’s because he’s someone who truly has the best interests of rural and regional Australia at heart.

His approach is the Government’s approach.

Managing change in a responsible, methodical way, maximising the opportunities on the horizon –

Governing for the entire country.

Murray’s leading our work to protect industry from biosecurity risks –

Improving trade relations to grow the export market –

Signing the first National Statement on Climate Change and Agriculture –

Funding important upgrades to Queensland’s Beef Corridors and the Inland Freight Route.

And he’s one of the ministers ensuring value‑add in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries is one of the National Reconstruction Fund’s areas for investment –

Murray does this work with passion, and with drive –

Because he, and we, recognise that a strong agricultural sector is crucial to our economy now and in the decades ahead.

By partnering, building, and connecting –

We can manage the challenge of a changing climate for primary industries and the increasing frequency of drought and disaster –

Maximise the opportunity of the energy transformation –

And secure the future of Australian agriculture and guarantee a prosperous future for our regions.

It’s why I’m so optimistic about the decade ahead –

So glad to have had the opportunity to speak to you today –

And so privileged to introduce Murray this morning.

Thanks very much.