Drought relief on the government's agenda
A CRIPPLING drought across three states has triggered federal government plans to offer more help to rural Australia amid estimates that more than 40per cent of farmers are now suffering from the record-long dry.
Maranoa MP David Littleproud said his key concern was that almost 27,000 farmers who are eligible for the farm household allowance were not signing up for payments that could help them through the drought.
During last week's three-day listening tour of southwest Queensland, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Mr Littleproud announced $20million towards rural financial counselling services.
"That $20m will keep the existing counsellors on the ground until 2020,” Mr Littleproud said.
"And $3.5m of that will go towards increased services to meet demand, because it's important people understand the counsellors are there to work in concert with the farm household allowance package.”
Mr Littleproud said the FHA was the money that farmers received to keep bread and butter on their table every fortnight.
"More than half the people eligible for the FHA haven't applied,” he said.
"They can go to the rural financial counsellors and they'll help them with their application, it's important people don't self-assess.”
He said different parts of the Maranoa were experiencing different stages of drought, which made it difficult to have a one-size-fits-all approach.
"As a Federal Government, a lot of our policies surround keeping that bread and butter on the table, and to keep food in families' mouths.
"There are people out there suffering and they can get help from the Federal Government, getting out to the regions with the PM was a way to bring to their attention that there's someone there to help them do it.”
Mr Littleproud said that while he can't make it rain, he can bring awareness back to the Cabinet.
"I get to see it every week in my electorate and the PM doesn't... It's good for him to get an appreciation so that when we're sitting around the Cabinet table he's seen first-hand what people are going through,” he said.
"We're putting a lens of reality over our policies and providing real peoples' examples to help us see what we can do to try and minimise the impact and get our farmers through to when it does rain.”
Mr Littleproud said it was important for farmers to stay positive, despite the trying conditions.
"It's important not to beat ourselves up as an industry and as regional Australians, it's not all doom and gloom,” he said.
"Because when it does rain, there is good money to be made.”