House debates

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Questions without Notice


2:55 pm

Photo of Andrew GeeAndrew Gee (Calare, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Will the minister update the House on how the government is supporting regional communities dealing with the drought through assistance to community groups and local councils?

2:56 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | | Hansard source

) ( ): I thank the member for Calare for his very serious question. Having a strong economy helps us invest in looking after country communities, which are doing it pretty tough at the moment—very tough, indeed—with the effects of the drought. To date, the government's investment has been more than $1.8 million in drought assistance and we are determined to play our role and help with the assistance and recovery efforts.

We recently announced $15 million in support for local community groups through the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal—a very, very good organisation. This morning we released the guidelines, and applications open tomorrow. We want to support communities dealing with the drought. We want to get the money flowing into drought affected communities to make sure that they have that income flowing around and to make sure that people know they are supported. There's the Drought Communities Program, with funding to five local shires in the Calare electorate, which is helping councils generate work and get money flowing, and 55 others throughout Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. I appreciate, I acknowledge and I recognise too that South Australia is doing it tough as well.

Through the FRRR, there's the investment into small community grants, which is also helped by philanthropic donations. That's also helping. Right around the nation, kids are giving up their pocket money, businesses are helping and people are supporting, and that is fantastic. But this is about investments for non-profit organisations to help such things as social gatherings, reducing social isolation, drought information sessions and forums, as well as getting vital community gatherings for our rural and regional communities. Those eligible should visit the foundation's website We're seeing the best of regional Australia and the best of human nature and people's goodwill revealing itself during this crippling drought. We're seeing the best from organisations such as Lifeline Central West. That's a fabulous organisation led by Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Robinson. She's seen the effects of the drought firsthand and her organisation is certainly getting in there and helping. The member tells me that that organisation, Lifeline Central West, have been doing some fantastic work in the Calare electorate around the drought, including the development of a drought toolkit. They've also helped with a number of drought toolkit talks around the region, in Orange and Bathurst so far, which aim to equip people who are in regular contact with those affected by the drought.

Tomorrow, here in Canberra, we'll be having the drought summit, where we will meet with stakeholders and we will continue, as a parliament, as a government, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with people who are doing it very, very tough. Together, we will get through this drought. Our farmers and our rural communities are the most resilient people in this land—make no mistake. It's all about tackling tough times together. United as one: as a government and as a nation.