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Cost shifting puts drought reform in doubt.



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Gavan O'Connor MP MEMBER FOR CORIO SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES

6 April 2005

COST SHIFTING PUTS DROUGHT REFORM IN DOUBT

The only new thing in the Howard Government’s drought reform proposal released today is the attempt to shift an increased share of the costs on to the states and territories.

Agriculture Minister Warren Truss has wasted a golden opportunity to ensure farmers get drought relief more quickly.

He has finally come around to supporting the proposal by states and territories to introduce a National Monitoring System (NMS) for objectively measuring the impact of drought on the production of a region.

However his proposal leaves in place all the bureaucratic requirements currently associated with an Exceptional Circumstances (EC) declaration at both state and federal levels that have led to duplication and delays.

And even this limited reform is conditional on the states agreeing to accept an increased proportion of the cost of drought relief.

Farmers and the states are being asked to accept a vague promise that, at some unspecified date in the future, consideration may be given to spending the savings to the commonwealth’s budget on unspecified improvements to benefits.

The Minister has also has been very vague about whether EC business support will continue to be paid as interest rate subsidies or will be handed out as grants.

Ten years after first promising to reform drought relief nothing has been delivered. If the Minister was serious this time he would not have tied even

these modest proposals to his attempt to shift the cost away from the commonwealth’s bottom line and on to the states.

Contact Gavan O’Connor on 0418 518 528 Bernie Eades on 0419 664 016