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Electorate talk

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Throughout our brief history as a nation, the man on the land has had to live with the scourge of drought. Drought can.strike anytime. It does not discriminate. It can ruin a lifetime l ;s toil. It. can force families. off the land ... it can severely affect . the fortunes of country towns and push up the prices of products on the supermarket shelves.

In our own electorate - as you all know - we haye been

fortunate in having good rains that will see us through, the summer. But for tens of thousands of farming families it is a different stoi*y. .

In the great wool and wheat belt of New South Wales, in the grazing and croplands of Queensland and in Western Australia., drought is leaving . its mark. Dams are empty, stock are dying and crops are withering. .

This all affects people - not just those who own the farms, but the shopkeepers and merchants who service the farms, and rely on them for their livelihood.

Some useful rains have fallen in recent weeks, but nowhere near enough to see farmers through the.summer. Of course, rain in itself does not mean the end of the farmer's need for help. He has to buy seed and fertiliser and even when pasture growth is restored he needs help in replacing the

stock that he has lost.

There is no question that the Federal Government has a significant role in helping in times Of hardship. Under arrangements we established with the States a wide variety of forms of assistance are available to farmers in drought areas. These include carry-on loans at concessional rates of interest which allow farmers to borrow money for things

like fodder, water cartage and stock agistment. The Federal . Government in fact provides three out of every four dollars - above a set formula - for relief. The payments vary among States depending upon their own resources.

At present, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have either passed or are bordering on thei'r~rĀ£ormula limit. This means that for the rest of this financial year, under the arrangements, the Federal Government will meet three quarters of all natural disaster relief expenditure, including that for drought. . . .



As an . incentive to the States to increase help to drought stricken farmers, the Federal Government offered $30 million as an interest free advance - including $20 million to '

New South Wales, the remainder to be split between the other affected States. ;

Along, with the other States, New South Wales accepted that quickly. I was pleased to learn this week that Mr. Wran is also prepared to introduce carry-on loans of up to $40,000 for drought-stricken farmers in his State

I made this offer of assistance to all. $,ta.tes some weeks ago. I am sure the farmers of New. .South Wales' will be relieved that they too will have access to the increased level of loans.

On top of this, the Federal Government has been active in providing a range of imaginative taxation relief measures . to help farmers get through the hard times. These include immediate and full deductibility of money spent, in water and soil conservation; special depreciation for fodder, hay and grain storage costs; the income equalisation deposit scheme and tax averaging.

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This is a record of assistance that has not been matched by any government. It is a record of action that we make no apology for - as Australians are interdependent...

Drought, flood, and fire - bad crops and bad seasons - affect us all whether, we- live in the. country or city. Over the years the man on the land has coped with the bad times, frequently at great cost and hardship. But he has shown a real Australian resilience to bounce back. .

I am confident that with understanding and support from all sections of the community, farmers in the severe drought . areas will, see it through.

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