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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7746

Drought


Mr DRUM (Murray) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. Will the minister update the House on how the government's drought assistance measures are supporting primary producers and farming communities to build drought resilience and preparedness, including in my electorate of Murray? What are the alternatives to supporting our primary producers in this way?


Mr LITTLEPROUD (MaranoaMinister for Agriculture and Water Resources) (14:51): I thank the honourable member for his question and his concern about the spread of this insidious drought across this country. This government's policy on drought has been one around farmer welfare and preparedness. Proudly, we've invested over $1.8 billion in farming families and communities.

Yesterday, we announced more measures. We're making sure that we're lifting the farm household assistance to $37,626 to those farming families out there. We've invested a further $25 million into Rural Financial Counselling Service, of which $8.4 million will go towards new boots on the ground to put people of farming families in front of rural financial counsellors at their own kitchen tables. It's an important measure to give them time to make strategic decisions about their business and about their future, but we've gone further than that.

Now we're looking at preparedness measures, with nearly $100 million in water infrastructure projects, with $23.7 million of that going towards the Great Artesian Basin. It's a great program that goes towards capping and piping bores and looking after one of this nation's greatest natural resources. There's nearly $72 million in identifying new water projects, like new dams. We're proud to say that we want to build more dams to build more resilience for the agricultural sector and for the productivity and profitability of the agricultural sector. We're making sure that we invest also in giving over $2.7 million to the Bureau of Meteorology to help them have more localised climate programs that allow farmers to make strategic decisions about when they should buy and sell cattle, giving farmers the tools to get through droughts and to be prepared for droughts. It's also to allow farmers to make strategic investment in an instant write-off for any fodder infrastructure farmers want to build to get through droughts in the future. This is a strategic decision in their future. We've increased the amounts of loans for the Regional Investment Corporation from $1 million to $2 million to give more competitive pressure in the financial sector to the agricultural farmers right across this country. This is about building greater resilience into the agricultural sector.

We've also announced Major General Stephen Day to coordinate our approach, and the whole nation's approach, to this. This is to ensure that we actually hear, as a government, on a daily basis about the concerns and the rapid response that we will need to give as this continues to evolve.

The story of agriculture is still a good one, even though there will be further droughts. Farmers in this country should be loud and proud about what they do and how they do it. This drought will go and, when it does, they will make a quid. We should be proud of what they do for this economy. I can say to each and every farmer that this government—this parliament—will stand shoulder to shoulder with you to get you through this drought.