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Boswell wrong on funds

The Federal Opposition is wrong in claiming large amounts of monies from the Rural Adjustment Scheme are unspent, the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, Senator Bob Collins said today.

National Party Senator Ron Boswell has claimed more than $37 million dollars in reserves of Commonwealth fund are being withheld by the States from drought stricken farmers.

The Minister said $54.5m was held in RAS reserves at the end of the July.

"In most States, including Queensland and New South Wales, which are hardest hit by drought, this represents the monthly working capital advanced by the Commonwealth as a rolling reserve," Senator Collins said

"As such these States do not have any money being withheld, as Senator Boswell claims.

"Only the States of Victoria and Western Australia do have levels of reserves accumulated under the RAS 1988 scheme at such levels that they have working capital to cover operations until 1995/96 and 1998/99 respectively.

"Most States now only hold reserves for monthly working capital purposes.

"No 'surplus' funds are held in the States currently receiving Commonwealth payments, i.e. NSW, Qld, SA, and Tasmania.

"The current RAS 1992 funding arrangements have been developed to ensure Commonwealth funding reaches farmers as soon as practicable and cannot be accumulated by States.

"The dispersal of RAS monies by the States is audited by the Commonwealth on a monthly basis.

"During 1993-94 more than $150m in Commonwealth funds under RAS were spent to support farmers."

Senator Collins said this was explained at length to Senator Boswell during the recent sittings of the Senate.

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