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Drought Disaster: Situation Now Extreme

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It is now clear that the drought situation across much of Australia has a severity which is creating extreme hardship, Federal Leader of the National Party, Tim Fischer said today.

Mr Fischer was speaking after a meeting of Members and Senators of the National Party had reviewed seasonal and economic conditions around Australia.

The meeting took place in Canberra and heard reports particularly in relation to the NSW and Qld drought situation, along with problems arising from the onward recession.

"We now must have further action from the Federal Government in the

Budget," Mr Fischer said.

"This action must involve consideration of the recent report of the Senate Committee on Drought as its recommendations provide the bench mark and many worthwhile proposals which are very similar to existing Coalition policies.

"Sadly, not only are farmers being crunched and many small business operators in country areas being crunched, there is also missed educational opportunities, a once in a lifetime opportunity for so many country school children.

"The Government must look again at all of its assets test provisions, and in particular, provide relief in cases of extreme economic hardship. The Government must continue to work on its approach to drought arising from tfye recent Australian Agricultural Council meeting at Mackay.

"The Government should also consider an increase in its Austudy payments. I would point out that under the comprehensive approach of Fightback!, Austudy payments would be boosted by 6%, the assets test greatly eased and farm transport costs slashed through the abolition of all Payroll Tax,

Sales Tax and Fuel Excise.

"Wheatgrowers particularly are facing a near total crop failure in many parts of the mixed farming belt of Northern NSW and Queensland. For many it will be the last straw and will leave them destitute in terms of having any where-with-all to attempt another crop next year.

"Again the Senate Drought Committee made reference to this and the Rural Adjustment Scheme must remain relevant and must be made relevant.

"I accept it is not an easy task and Governments, State and Federal simply do not have a capacity to wave a magic wand and overcome all the problems arising from drought and extreme drought. Never-the-less every effort must be made to ensure responsible policy is pursued to ease the burden of the acute situation which has arisen, Mr Fischer added.

Members of the National Party would continue a series of drought meetings and inspections across Australia and the National Party is opening a drought office at Cobar in Western NSW.

ENDS For further information phone 06 277 4058 5 August 1992 COMMONWEALTH