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Rudd Labor scaring the hell out of regional Australia.

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Tuesday, 23 June 2009


Nationals Member for Mallee John Forrest told Federal Parliament on Monday the drought had not ended and that regional Australia’s productive base remained in a very delicate state.

He was commenting on Rudd Labor’s plans to terminate the current Exceptional Circumstances drought assistance package with nothing to take its place as the drought continues.

“We’ve had some rain across my constituency, which has created new hope, a new positive feeling after seven years and in some areas nearly nine years of drought,” Mr Forrest said. A real grain crop across the north-west of Victoria has not really been achieved since the mid 1980s. Rural Australia, particularly the part I represent, is in a very vulnerable situation. Proper advice on ongoing future safety net policy directions is paramount.”

Mr Forrest said the entire electorate of Mallee had been in exceptional circumstances for four years with some of the smaller areas even longer than that. He said irrigators along the Murray Valley in his electorate were into their third year of EC due to factors beyond their control, including historically low water allocations.

“There is still uncertainty about water on a month to month basis. It is no way to run a business. You cannot prepare a business plan, particularly if you are engaged in irrigation horticulture, if the first water announcement is a zero allocation.”

Mr Forrest said every day, he was confronted with people’s uncertainty when they came into his electoral office “about what they quite clearly see as the government’s intention to abandon the EC safety net, their support base”.

“Given that the people of the north-west of Victoria are a very determined, resilient and proud people, the Minister needs to get into the family environment and understand how it makes them feel that their only option is to rely on social security. I have asked the Minister to please understand he is dealing with real people.”

Mr Forrest said adding to regional Australian concerns were the recommendations of the Productivity Commission. “It quite strongly recommends the termination of drought EC, the termination of interest rate subsidies, the termination of income support and the termination of the whole way in the EC declaration process operates,” Mr Forrest said.

John Forrest MP The Nationals Member for Mallee

Phone (03) 5021 5987 Fax (03) 5023 3274

“I urge the Minister adopt a much more sympathetic attitude to that sector of the Australian economy he purports to represent. We are dealing with real people, real working families, who are beside themselves in the circumstances they are confronted


Mr Forrest said the Government needed to say early what would replace EC.

“I said to the agricultural Minister, don’t leave them dangling on the fishhook of uncertainty about what the government’s intentions are, and what it wants to replace EC with. Get out there, like some of us are doing and talk to the people. Don’t wait for the eleventh hour. EC has served a very good and useful purpose. It has cushioned the impacts of the drought that has affected the whole country.

“Drought has been coming since the mid-seventies, and my primary producers are fairly well convinced by now that climate change is upon us all. They want to see some positive action,” Mr Forrest said.

Mr Forrest can be contacted on 0428 500 186.