We always seem to forget that drought is as Australian as football, meat pies, kangaroos and Holden cars – and has been part of this nation for much, much longer.

There’s no doubt that there are people suffering as a result of a lack of rainfall, but there aren’t all that many federal electorates where they live.

Apocalyptic Greens are using a natural phenomenon to scare suburbanites, that’s true. Water is an issue, but drought may be saving the Prime Minister from much more acute political pain in the territory that will decide the next election.

The PM had a lot to say about drought. Recently he wondered out aloud: “Imagine what the economy would be doing if there was no drought”. Try.

The drought has cut production and slowed the economy, but drought has also removed increased farm machinery sales from the current account.

It has meant less competition between the resources and rural industries for the same workers.

It has dampened down skill and salary pressures that feed into inflation.

It could be saving John Howard from a jump of up to 1% in interest rates – a jump that would feed straight through to the marginals of the mortgage belt.

Drought is a curse. Water is an issue. But Liberal Party strategists believe that there is far more scientific evidence about the workings of the hip pocket nerve than climate change.

Peter Fray

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