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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8384


Mr O'DOWD (Flynn) (14:29): My question is for the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Will the minister update the House on how the government is supporting communities affected by drought by partnering with local councils to help farmers, families and communities? Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware of any different suggestions that would not provide the same level of assistance to our farmers?

Opposition members interjecting

Mr McCORMACK (RiverinaDeputy Prime Minister, Minister for Infrastructure,Transport and Regional Development and Leader of The Nationals) (14:29): I thank the member for Flynn for his question. It's a question about drought. I hear those opposite calling out 'Wagga Wagga'. Yes, you will be pleased to know that last Thursday in Wagga Wagga there were 27 millimetres of rain. That's going to provide some ability for those farmers to get a crop off. Many of the farmers in New South Wales, Queensland and, indeed, Victoria are not going to get a crop off, and we should be mindful of them. When yelling across the chamber, we should be mindful of all of those farmers, of all of those rural businesses, but at least some of the farmers have a bit of a green sheen around the electorates. Certainly in Wagga Wagga it rained last Thursday, so thank you for your interest in that.

The member for Flynn, like all of us, is working hard to support the farmers, the families and the small businesses and communities across Queensland who are doing it tough. I know his electorate borders Maranoa. It's very dry in Maranoa. The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources is doing an outstanding job representing those farming communities. To date, the government has pledged $1.8 billion in drought support in three tranches of supporting measures such as cash on the table to help farming families to pay for some groceries, to pay for some bills. Indeed, those amounts are $12,000 for a couple and up to $7,200 for single households, the first payment of which will be in October, the second payment from March next year. There is more support for rural financial counsellors, so very important as far as getting out the people who can help people with mental health. We have increased the eligibility for farm household assistance and made additional investment in water and fodder storage.

We made an announcement at HE Silos. Now there's a great family business—a third-generation family business started by Ivan and Patsy Morrison in Hillston in 1969. It's an Australian-owned family business. As I said, it is third generation. It's got factories in both Forbes and Gunnedah. It builds silos. It makes kit silos, superphosphate silos, 60-degree cone silos, field bins, and cattle and sheep bins. It is a great little company. Their sons Darryl, who manages the Gunnedah factory, and Steven, who manages the Forbes plant, with their wives Cherylee and Jennifer now have the third generation coming along. The kids are taking part in that business. They employ up to 70 staff. They are the sorts of businesses that are helping out with the drought. They are the sorts of community resilience-building family companies that we need to really support in the drought. We don't need our farmers to be told what they can do, where they can farm and how they can farm. That's what the member for Hunter has done in recent times. Farmers don't need to listen to that, Member for Hunter; I tell you that now. (Time expired)