SYDNEY - Heatwaves, less rain and increased drought are the likely prospect for Australia, according to a new report on climate change which the agriculture minister said read like a "disaster novel".

The report, by the Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, found that the world's driest inhabited continent is likely to suffer more extreme temperatures due to climate change.

It said that exceptionally hot years, which once occurred every 20 to 25 years, were more likely to hit every one or two years. And the hotter weather could begin as soon as 2010.

Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said the assessment indicated that the risk of drought would double, as would the area of Australia declared to be in drought.

"Parts of these high level projections read more like a disaster novel than a scientific report," he told reporters.

"What's clear is that the cycle of drought is going to be more regular and deeper than ever."

The report is part of a government review of drought policy.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the report, which found that the area of Australia having an exceptionally hot year could increase from just under five percent to as much as 95 percent, was "very disturbing".

"The analysis shows that the extent and frequency of exceptionally hot years have been increasing rapidly over recent decades and this trend is expected to continue," the report concluded.

Rainfall, which has been falling since the 1950s -- partly due to climate change -- is also likely to decline with southern Australia and the southern island of Tasmania among the worst affected, it said.