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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 42

Mr NEUMANN (5:03 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. How will rural and regional Australians benefit from the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan?

Mr BURKE (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —I thank the member for Blair for the question. He is a member who understands that times of drought and hardship impact not just on the farmers in the area but on businesses in towns. You can contrast that with today being the extraordinary day when the Leader of the Nationals intervened to try to stop the Prime Minister talking about farmers. Years of drought, rising input costs, fluctuating commodity prices and now a global economic crisis have created extraordinary challenges for many of Australia’s farmers. Their capacity to have a disposable income affects not just their families but their entire town. By providing farmers within EC declared areas with the hardship payment announced by the Prime Minister today, the government is taking a further step to boost economic activity in rural and regional towns and cities.

The $950 payment to assist farmers experiencing hardship within EC declared areas due to drought conditions will be made in addition to other payments that those farmers may well be eligible for under the plan. That not only provides assistance for those farm families but provides assistance for the towns that, like the farmers in those areas, have been suffering through the period of drought.

There was an opinion on the plan—different from the National Party’s opinion, I have to say—released today by a group known to some of the members opposite: the National Farmers Federation. Whereas those opposite have tended to oppose these payments and have gone down their normal path of carping, whingeing and complaining, the response from the National Farmers Federation has been somewhat different. They described the farmers payment as ‘a much-needed fillip to families and regional economies’. When those opposite ask, ‘Where will the jobs be?’, the opinion of the NFF is simple. When they referred to the infrastructure spending in the package, they said that this ‘will see a major revamp of country services and shore up jobs in local communities’. In considering the small business payment, the view of those opposite has been made clear. The view of the National Farmers Federation is that that small business payment will be greatly appreciated by small, family owned farms. On those farms with annual turnovers of more than $2 million, we had the comment from the NFF that farmers are ‘continuing to invest in new equipment, which can help to keep the economy ticking over’. Australia’s farmers know the benefits that lie in today’s package, even if those opposite do not.

Mr Rudd —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.