Finance Minister Nick Minchin got to the heart of the matter in the Senate this week. Drought, he said showing all the preparation done by the Government before announcing its latest spending spree, is caused by a lack of rainfall. And so we set off again down the path of vote buying for a National Party desperate to prove to rural voters that members in a governing Coalition can deliver more goodies than a raft of independents on the cross benches.

But just how serious is the current drought? Well, it depends on the time period you choose. The Bureau of Meteorology in its Statement on Drought earlier this month used the four month period ending 30th September 2006 showing generally severe rainfall deficiencies [rainfalls in the lowest 5% of historical totals] covered most of the area south of a line from Exmouth (WA) to Eucla (WA) to Tarcoola (SA) to Mildura (Vic) to Albury (NSW) to Canberra (ACT) to Sale (Vic), as well as northern, central and eastern Tasmania. Record low totals occurred in scattered patches over WA (these were much less extensive than those at the end of August), in parts of southern Victoria and in a few patches across Tasmania. Multi-year rainfall deficits in the southeast have been exacerbated by the most recent period of suppressed rainfall. That four month data produced the following map:

Map the date for the last three months instead of the last four and the drought picture doesn’t look quite as serious. The rain deprived areas of Western Australia are much smaller:

For this to be the worst drought ever and a sign that global warming is wreaking havoc with Australia you might think that the last year has been an absolute shocker when it comes to rainfall. Not so according to the Bureau’s drought map. The serious and severe rainfall deficiencies are confined to the south east and south west corners of the country: