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Thursday, 29 June 2000
Page: 18580

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (10:44 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

This Retirement Assistance for Farmers Scheme Extension Bill 2000 will extend the successful Retirement Assistance for Farmers Scheme until 30 June, 2001.

The RAF scheme is a key initiative of the Agriculture—Advancing Australia package, introduced by this government in 1997 to ensure a strong ongoing future for this nation's farming sector.

The AAA package has delivered unprecedented support to the rural sector, focusing on measures to boost competitiveness, sustainability and profitability. It has helped farmers to improve their business and risk management skills and to become more self-reliant. At the same time, AAA has introduced an effective safety net for farmers in financial difficulties.

The RAF scheme provides older farmers with the opportunity to transfer their farm to the younger generation without affecting their access to the age pension or service pension. Since its introduction in September 1997, the scheme has assisted more than 1,400 retiring farmers and their partners.

Its extension for a further nine months will allow more farmers to reap the benefits of the scheme. They will be able to pass their farm on to their children, providing their family not only with a going concern but with a sense of continuity and belonging in their community. At the same time it will allow retiring farmers immediate access to the age pension or service pension.

The scheme is designed to assist farmers who are facing hardship because their business is forced to provide a living for two families when it is capable of supporting only one. RAFS removes a significant impediment to the intergenerational transfer of the family farm.

The eligibility requirements of the scheme have not altered. Farmers will need to meet the eligibility criteria of the scheme as it has operated during the past three years.

The extension of this initiative, costing around $9 million over four years, will further contribute to a strong farming industry and enable older farmers, including many veterans, to retire with peace of mind, leaving a proud legacy to the younger generation. I commend the bill to House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Martin Ferguson) adjourned.