THE rainy images printed on the lead news pages of papers across the country were not what were expected to transpire from the Prime Minister's drought tour on the weekend.
But let's not let the weekend's downpours muddy the drought assistance message. Nor can we allow it to dilute the PM's understanding of the need for urgent, in-event assistance for the farmers and graziers impacted. Despite the industry's circumstance, agriculture has a proven record of being a long-term viable business.
Through efficient production systems and sound management, our sector has achieved excellent productivity gain while getting little in the way of direct assistance or government tariff protection relative to our overseas competitors. For these reasons, in addition to a number of other economically sound factors, the rural sector and the communities built upon farming, must be given adequate support to emerge from the other end of this drought and to navigate their way through the associated recovery period.
Last week the National Farmers' Federation, in conjunction with AgForce and other key farming groups, unveiled its proposed drought relief package, comprising new and updated existing measures we believe will help farmers while acting in the best fiscal interests of the national economy.
As Mr Joyce attempts to persuade his Cabinet colleagues as to the importance of these measures, we hope the Prime Minister's visit to Bourke, Broken Hill and Longreach over the weekend will have shown him cause to also support the package.
From a Queensland perspective, Premier Campbell Newman and Agriculture Minister, John McVeigh, have responded particularly well to the deepening drought crisis.
Last month the Premier announced an additional $20 million in drought assistance measures, on top of the existing $10 million.
Last week the State Government, in conjunction with the Commonwealth, increased the emergency water infrastructure rebate to 75%, with uptake of this rebate rapidly increasing as producers seek to ensure safe water supplies for drought affected stock.
The Premier said publicly he will instigate further drought measures if required and we commend him. Leasehold land rental and local government rate waivers would be two particularly effective initiatives within the State Government's reach of responsibility which would immediately provide immense relief to our farmers.