Thursday, 4 July 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management. Will the minister outline to the house how the government is supporting North Queenslanders recently effected by the flooding and farmers in rural communities that have been effected by the ongoing drought?
I thank the member for Dawson for his question. He'd also be interested to know that 61½ thousand members of his electorate will now get a tax cut. Not only will we be supporting those that are affected by the floods in North Queensland but we'll be now moving to support those people with our actions today. But I do acknowledge your keen interest in this; the disastrous floods that happened this year covered an area greater than Germany. I was fortunate enough to walk in and fly in to some of those affected areas during the flood event as it was unfolding and to visit some of these brave Australians.
I remember getting off the chopper and talking to a fellow who had just lost everything. He'd lost every beast on his property. He'd his whole livelihood, his whole income. The only thing he could say to me when I said, 'Are you okay?' was that there was some poor bugger worse off than him. Let me tell you: those courageous and brave Australians are who we are and what we are, but we are not leaving them alone. Our government is going to stand shoulder to shoulder with them. We are committing $3.1 billion to the North Queensland floods. A hundred and eighteen million dollars of that is going directly to those people that have been impacted to help them recover. It was $25,000 and, with the support of the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland, it was instantly taken to $75,000 because of the appreciation of the magnitude of this event and to get on with the job of clean-up.
We've also partnered with the state government, with $242 million worth of programs of recovery in infrastructure but also rebuilding the psyche of a lot of these communities that have been hurt. It's important we also help to rebuild the agricultural sector, and there's $5 million worth of agri-rebuild loans that farmers will now be able to access. That'll be complemented by $400,000 grants for restocking and replanting to get them up on their feet, to give them a fair go.
But to those farmers out there also that are impacted by the drought: we haven't forgotten you. The drought hasn't abated, and this government continues to stand shoulder to shoulder, with nearly $7 billion worth of commitments that we put on the table; nearly $37,000 in farm household assistance to put money in farmers' pockets to pay for those life expenses that they have and to put bread and butter on the tables of their families; and putting more rural financial counsellors around the kitchen tables of our farmers to help them fill out the paperwork and make clear directions. We now have a $5 billion centrepiece, the Future Drought Fund, that will give a $100 million dividend in the good and bad years to make sure that we build the resilience not only of our agricultural sector but of these regional communities.
Make no mistake: these events are setbacks, but they are not the end of regional and rural Australia. We will fight through this as we have in the past. The story of regional and rural Australia, the story of agriculture, is: just add rain and, when we get it, the future is bright. This government will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with you.