Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Questions without Notice
Can I thank the honourable member for his question. Only today I met with one of the farmers from his electorate, a dairy farmer, who is seriously impacted by this drought, and he told me the impact it was having on his family and his community. Our government's responsibility during this drought is looking after farming families and making sure that they can get through this drought with dignity. I'm proud to say that we've increased farm household assistance to $37,626. In fact, we've increased that only recently, by giving supplementary payments of $12,000 to farming families and $7,200 to individuals. I can report to the House that, since the legislation was passed on 23 August, 2,363 applicants have been successful in accessing that supplementary payment. Our departments have worked as quickly as they can to make sure that that money gets to those farming families to enable them to put bread and butter on the table. This is about making sure that we can give farmers the dignity and respect they deserve during this drought, and making sure that they can get their kids playing sport on the weekend.
We're not stopping there. On 29 July I asked for a review into farm household assistance to make sure it is still fit for purpose and to ensure that it is having the impact that's needed for those farming families and communities. I'm proud to say that, only this morning, I met with the review team to get the feedback I required and to give them directions to make sure they're looking at every part of this, even the supplementary activity payment, which is putting $4,000 into each individual's hand to give them the opportunity to get new skills, diversify their income streams and look off-farm for new income to make their businesses more resilient. This is despite the fact that, only last year, when we surveyed those who had come off farm household assistance, almost 90 per cent of respondents in that exit survey felt that the FHA had improved their current financial circumstances, and more than 50 per cent expected to stay on-farm with greater income and/or less debt. This is because we've complemented the assistance with rural financial counsellors—the angels of this drought—to give farmers the direction and time to make the right decisions.
This is an important step in supporting families in regional communities. They are the core of regional communities. They are the ones who make up the fabric of our regional and rural society. Without them, our regional and rural communities would die—our small and regional communities would no longer be there. So it's important that we wrap our arms around those farming families to ensure that they continue to strengthen regional and rural Australia.