House debates

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Questions without Notice


2:23 pm

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, 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 the impact of the drought across regional Australia and how the Morrison-McCormack government is assisting those people and communities affected?

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

I thank the member for Mallee for her question and point out that I know that there are significant areas in her electorate affected by this crippling and prolonged drought, especially the Millewa, and right across this nation. We heard the member for Monash talking in heartfelt terms in his 90-second statement about how the drought is affecting his Victorian electorate. I know the member for Grey, this morning, talked passionately about how his electorate was suffering. I know whether it's Gippsland, where they've had a few showers but they're still doing it tough, or indeed Farrer, my own electorate, or Parkes—the member for Parkes last Thursday drove about 1,050 kilometres between Broken Hill and Moree and encountered just three mobs of sheep along the way. Many of the farmers have destocked in his electorate, as they have in the member for New England's electorate. I know the member for Maranoa is in fact now a dedicated cabinet minister for drought, but I know how hard the communities and the farmers are affected in Maranoa. They are hurting. They are hurting emotionally and they're hurting financially. After generations of hard work for the land and livestock, imagine seeing all that disintegrate before your very eyes? It's not just a matter of a couple of rough seasons or about the price per head of sheep or cattle; it's about people's homes, their livelihoods and their history on the land.

The government is making sure that our farmers and our small business owners can reach out for help when they need it, and I commend the minister for drought, the member for Maranoa, for the work that he has done in putting rural financial counsellors, experts, around the kitchen table, talking to farmers and their families about how we as a government—we as a parliament, indeed—can help. I know that the member for Eden-Monaro's electorate is hurting too; there are so many more electorates. But over the past year this service has assisted more than 6,600 people, and I know that we stand ready to do even more.

We know that when our farmers suffer, so too does our nation. The federal government is providing a million dollars to 110 councils, including the Buloke Shire Council in the member for Mallee's electorate. We can, we will and we must do more for these drought affected communities. The Drought Communities Program is just one step along the way. It's about investing in local infrastructure projects, making sure that employment stays within communities, making sure that money stays within the towns and making sure that the people at least have a positive outlook.

We will do more. We've put in place the $5 billion Future Drought Fund. It's a good initiative and we'll stand by these communities as they continue to suffer from the effects of the drought.