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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 282

Pensions and Benefits

Ms McGOWAN (Indi) (14:20): My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister about Centrelink and access for dairy farmers. Minister, on 10 November I asked you a question about delays for families in accessing farm and household support. The House will recall that you delegated Senator McKenzie to host a series of roundtables. These took place where the senator and others heard repeated examples of problems getting access to Centrelink. My question today is: when will you release the report by Senator McKenzie about these meetings, and what action will the government take about extra resources to Centrelink, in terms of clearing the backlog? In asking this question, I understand that the government plans to introduce legislation to the House tomorrow about waiting periods and the water access, which we acknowledge and say, 'That's great,' but this will not clear the backlog. (Time expired)

Mr JOYCE (New EnglandDeputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (14:21): I thank the honourable member for her question. She is correct: tomorrow we will be introducing legislation to further streamline the farm household allowance so that more people can get access to this program that has been provided by the coalition government. To date, an extra 129 Victorian farmers are on the farm household allowance—that brings the number to 495 in total, as of 3 February 2017—and 100 Victorian farmers have been approved $53.2 million in concessional loans.

Through this program, we have had a series of meetings—through Tangambalanga, Congupna, Morwell and Camperdown—to make sure that we go through the process of further streamlining the farm household allowance. As well as the member for Indi, other members of this House attended these meetings. Minister Chester, Minister Tehan and Damien Drum were also in attendance at the meetings. A report is being prepared, and I am looking forward to releasing that report in due course—within the next week, if I can get hold of it. I have no reason to hold it back.

A range of areas within the dairy industry have been brought to our attention. Currently, the dairy price has undergone a step up. At the peak of the crisis, milk solids were $4.31. They have now gone up for Murray Goulburn to $4.95. We have reports from those who have access to water that is cheap and also grain, that people are making money now, which is good. As they have stated to me, they will actually be paying tax this year. What is surprising—and I am sure that the member for Indi will be surprised about this—is that, when the price was $4.31, we instigated a rescue package; whereas, back in 2009, under the Labor Party, the price went down to $3.60 and they did not do a single thing. So, at $4.31, we instigated a rescue package; at $3.60, the Labor Party did not give a toss about the dairy farmers of Victoria.

It is the same as we speak at the moment, because one of the largest inputs for dairy farmers is the price of electricity. Of course, with the price of electricity, we on this side have the courage to make the affirmative statement that we look forward to being part of the process of building new coal-fired power stations to get cheaper, more affordable electricity to people. But, of course, the Labor Party do not believe in that. They do not believe in the working men and women—

Ms McGowan: Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The question is about social security and dairy farmers.

The SPEAKER: I have listened very carefully to the Deputy Prime Minister, and I judge that he has certainly dealt with each aspect of the questions that he was asked within the 45 seconds and he is entitled to compare and contrast on the policy topic you raise. He is in order and he has seven more seconds.

Mr JOYCE: The question we ask is: when are you going to come up with a policy to make power cheaper, or don't you have one?