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Rural Australia in the gun in Labor's city-centric Budget.

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Warren Truss Leader of The Nationals Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Local Government Federal Member for Wide Bay


W o r k i n g h a r d , g e t t i n g r e s u l t s

Media contact: Paul Chamberlin 0419 233989 / 02 6277 4482

12 May 2008

Rural Australia in the gun in Labor’s city-centric Budget

Drought funding is set to be cut in tomorrow’s Budget, the Leader of The Nationals, Warren Truss, said today.

“There are extremely strong rumours coming out of the public service that this much-needed assistance is in the firing line in Labor’s first Budget,” Mr Truss said.

“Incredibly, Federal Labor’s attack on Australians who can least afford it comes as the NSW Labor Government announces today that almost half the state is in drought. This is up from 43 percent last month, with hoped for autumn rains failing to materialise.

“It might have rained in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne lately, but large tracts of southern Australia are still mired in the worst drought in our lifetimes.

“The Rudd Government has a responsibility to use taxpayers’ money responsibly, but it simply cannot leave farmers and local communities stranded at this time.

“City-dwelling Australians will not be immune from Labor’s short-sighted policies. The drought has already sent grocery prices soaring and every farmer who leaves the land equals even higher prices and greater reliance on foreign produced food.

“Labor has form in this area. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has already announced cuts of $115 million in drought programs, and another $150 million from the Growing Regions program to build infrastructure in regional areas.

“The Government has also announced a review of the Exceptional Circumstances provisions of drought assistance. Rural people know this is simply code for making that assistance almost impossible to get in the future.

“Labor affiliated academics have also proposed turning assistance into loans - a policy that would lengthen rural hardship for years to come. Farmers would be forced to repay assistance they received to stay on the land and produce the food and fibre that every Australian needs.

“I hope the rumours are wrong but I fear that Labor’s attack on the people who did not vote for it last year is about to move to a new level,” Mr Truss said.