The former president of the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says federal politicians are ignoring the link between drought and climate change.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his special drought envoy, Barnaby Joyce, toured drought-hit parts of Queensland this week, but former NFF president Brent Finlay says they are just the latest in a long line of ministers with “no real appetite” for national drought policy that takes account of a changing climate.

“Climate change and connectivity are the two biggest issues facing the bush. Climate change is real and we have to have a national drought policy framed on what we know about climate change – the two are interlinked,” Mr Finlay told Guardian Australia.

“Instead of jumping in front of the cameras when a drought is on, we need them to do the grunt work on effective financial measures that allow our farmers to build up cash reserves in the good times to draw upon when the dry comes again.”

Mr Finlay has proposed new government measures to reward farmers who prepare for drought, rather than “less efficient” farmers.

He said drought could be treated as a new category in natural disaster arrangements, so that its response mechanisms could go beyond the politics of the day.

Under such a system, dry spells would then be monitored and when they turn towards drought, conditional government assistance to reward good managers would kick in.

“Farmers acknowledge drought is a regular part of agriculture and with climate change we will potentially see more and more and that’s what we need,” he said.

“The climate is changing, you can see it in the eyes of farmers who dismissed it as rubbish eight years ago. By recognising climate change, it is empowering resources to support agriculture.”

He also proposed a permanent drought commissioner be placed in the prime minister’s office to develop proactive policy and climate monitoring.

“The permanent drought commissioner needs to be in PMO, we need to keep it at arm’s length from those politicians that feel they are directly affected. If it’s in PMO and hopefully its bipartisan, it elevates the management of the position,” he said.