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Monday, 23 September 2002
Page: 6955

Mr GIBBONS (1:37 PM) —It is a pity that something as important as the impact of drought on farmers has turned into a political debate. What a great pity we have a minister for agriculture who is well known for not letting the truth get in the way of making a political point, however feeble it may be. We have a situation where the states are contributing to drought relief, as they should. I welcome the announcement by the minister last week that welfare payments are going to be made in some areas. That is quite welcome, but there needs to be a lot more done. For example, it might be a bit of a surprise to the minister that drought knows no state boundaries. If a location like Moama in south-eastern New South Wales is experiencing dry conditions, it is a fair bet that Echuca will be experiencing the same conditions. The simple reason is that they are only separated by 100 metres of Murray River. The minister obviously does not understand that. Drought is a national responsibility, and there ought to be a proper national response to it.

There has been a lot of criticism about the contribution made by the states. As we all know, the Victorian state government announced $2.6 million of measures just last week, and these are the initial measures. There will be more to come. Some of those measures are going to be very beneficial to a lot of farmers in central Victoria. For example, the $2.6 million package includes $1.17 million of assistance to increase regional water. I understand I have about 30 seconds left. I will conclude by saying that at least under the previous Hawke and Keating governments we did have some rain occasionally.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.