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Wednesday, 9 December 1998
Page: 1722

Mr SECKER —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Family and Community Services. Could the minister outline to the House how the Retirement Assistance for Farmers scheme is helping rural and regional Australia and indicate how many people have taken advantage of this coalition initiative?

Mr TRUSS (Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the member for Barker for the question. This question refers to the government's farmers retirement assistance scheme which, for the first time, addresses the issues of intergenerational farm transfer—something which Labor did nothing about. The legacy that Labor left this government in primary industry has made this scheme very important. Under this scheme, farmers are able to retire, transfer their property to a succeeding generation and be given special concessions under the assets and income test to be eligible for the pension. That has meant that a significant number of farmers have been able to pass their farms on to the succeeding generation so that the property can continue to be worked in a productive way while they enjoy a normal and happy retirement.

I am happy to be able to report in response to the honourable member's question that, to date, some 210 customers have successfully applied under this scheme and are now receiving either an increased pension or a full pension that they would not have been eligible for had it not been for this government initiative. The department has currently received about 550 applications, and so there has obviously been a very warm response to the scheme in the rural community. It is already providing very real benefits to farm families.

For the information of the honourable member for Barker, I am sure he would be pleased to know that there are some seven successful applicants from his electorate. That demonstrates that this scheme is working in his part of Australia, as it is in many rural parts of Australia. This has been an outstanding initiative by the government and it is going to have real rewards for the Australian farming community.