Malcolm Turnbull says climate change helps cause droughts, dismissing suggestions from Barnaby Joyce that Australia abandon global emissions reduction targets because they won’t immediately help farmers.
The Prime Minister also defended the federal government’s $190 million drought relief package, which has been labelled “too little, too late” by critics.
Mr Turnbull has owned a sheep and cattle farm in the NSW Upper Hunter with his wife Lucy since 1982 and believes this is the worst dry spell he’s seen.
“I think everyone agrees that we’re seeing rainfall that is, if you like, more erratic, droughts that are more frequent and seasons that are hotter,” he told the ABC.
He reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions after the former deputy prime minister said the government’s action would do nothing to stop droughts.
Mr Joyce, whose NSW electorate of New England has been badly affected by drought, believes reducing emissions in Australia won’t change the climate.
“Any policy we do, it’s more of a sense of a commitment to a wider purpose” he told Sky News.
“It will have no difference on the climate whatsoever – zero, zip, nothing.”
But National Farmers Federation president Fiona Simpson pointed to a 45 per cent reduction in red meat industry emissions between 2005 and 2015 and said Australia needed to understand the effects of climate change to continue as a world leader in this area.
“The impacts of climate change will mean that (drought and rain) events could be more extreme but they could be more frequent,” Ms Simpson said.
We certainly need to understand that, how that’s going to affect us and how we can marry that changing circumstance with all that we’re doing in the rest of the country and the rest of the world with climate change,” she said.
Ms Simpson also expressed frustration at a lack of national drought policy and said while the middle of a drought wasn’t the best time for that type of policy it was the only time the sector could get the impetus to do it.
In its latest round of drought support the government is giving eligible farmers cash payments of up to $12,000 in two instalments.
Drought-awareness campaigner Edwina Robertson says the money isn’t enough.
“Everyone is saying it’s too little, too late,” she said.
But Mr Turnbull said the package was a supplement to the Farm Household Allowance, a fortnightly payment for eligible farmers totalling about $16,000 a year.
“It is designed to keep body and soul together, not designed to pay for fodder,” the prime minister said.
About 19,000 people eligible for the assistance are yet to apply.