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Morrison pledges new parliamentary committee for rural and regional Aus

Scott Morrison has pledged to set up a new parliamentary committee to examine the future needs of rural and regional Australia.

The prime minister will address a bush summit in Dubbo, as drought continues to wreak havoc for farmers and regional communities.

The new House of Representative select committee will bring together stories from regional Australia with a view to boosting economic resilience.

The federal government will also provide $2 million over four years for Soils For Life, a not-for-profit organisation which looks at improvements to agricultural land management.

Morrison is expected to restate the coalition’s existing policy to lift agriculture, fisheries and forestry to a $100 billion industry by 2030.

He had already thrown his support behind the National Farmers’ Federation goal with measures to provide water and drought-proof the sector.

The coalition wants to expand exports and improve market access through reducing trade barriers, while addressing intergenerational land transfer and encouraging new farmers.

“Our goal is to expand our export markets and lift the share of our two-way trade covered by trade agreements to more than 90 per cent by 2022,” Morrison said. “When we came to office it was 26 per cent and it is now more than 70 per cent. Our $100 billion goal is achievable.”

Water management is expected to be a headline issue at the summit, with some towns beginning to run out of water as the big dry rolls on.

As barren paddocks continue to hurt agriculture, domestic water supplies are also taking a hit with a lack of clean drinking water starting to emerge as a serious issue facing some rural communities.

Water security issues and the management of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan will be front and centre, with 97.4 per cent of NSW in drought.

Dwindling populations in smaller towns is also on the agenda, as people move to regional centres in search of opportunities in drought-ravaged areas.

Morrison is expected to visit Dubbo’s Royal Flying Doctor Service base before leaving central west NSW.

Two-thirds of Queensland is currently suffering the impacts of a prolonged dry spell.

Parts of South Australia and Victoria are also struggling, with farmers feeling the pinch after stretches without serious rainfall.

Matt Coughlan, AAP

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