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Henry caught out milking a porky.

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AFFA03/318WT - 5 November 2003

Henry caught out milking a porky

Claims by Beattie Government Primary Industries Minister Henry Palaszczuk that the Australian Government has denied Exceptional Circumstances (EC) assistance to pork and dairy producers in Queensland are completely untrue, Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today.

"The Australian Government has not refused to provide EC to eligible Queensland pork and dairy producers," Mr Truss said. "But now Mr Palaszczuk is asking producers who have not been drought-declared by him to be given EC.

"The fact is that dairy and pork producers in the Burnett EC area were declared eligible for full assistance as recently as 15 September 2003. Pork and dairy producers have not been excluded by the Federal Government in any of the 11 EC-declared areas in Queensland.

"Full EC assistance has also been extended specifically to pork and dairy producers on the Atherton Tablelands. Pork and dairy producers in the Miriam Vale, Banana, Calliope, Mount Morgan, Dalrymple, Mareeba and Maryborough shires are included in buffer zones for other EC declarations.

"Before his media release of 30 October, Mr Palaszczuk had never even submitted an application for EC assistance for dairy and pork producers in the Thuringowa and Hinchinbrook shires, so how can he claim the application was refused?

"What is even more cruel for farmers is that Mr Palaszczuk himself has still failed to drought declare the Burnett, Banana, Calliope, Maryborough, Isis and Mareeba shires. How can Mr Palaszczuk demand the Australian Government give these farmers exceptional assistance when he has not even offered them any state support."

More than $70 million in Australian Government drought assistance has been provided to Queensland farmers over the course of the current drought - more than six times the claimed contribution of the State Government, Mr Truss said.

"Mr Palaszczuk claims his government has spent $12 million on drought over recent years, but he refuses to say how much of that amount has actually been paid to farmers from State treasury.

"Mr Palaszczuk has done nothing for Queensland farmers and has stood by while the Beattie Government introduced a host of new taxes on farmers.

"I challenge Mr Beattie and Mr Palaszczuk to reveal how much their new taxes on farm dams, higher stamp duty, freight charges, animal inspection fees and ambulance levies are taking away from farmers battling this drought.

"I think Queenslanders might find that the $12 million Mr Palasczcuk

claims to have spent on drought assistance has not even replaced the new taxes and charges Mr Beattie has introduced since the start of the drought.

"By contrast, the Australian Government knows that the natural disaster wreaked by this drought is large scale and that the epicentre has moved North.

"The Australian Government expects to spend a significant amount more in Queensland of the more than $1 billion already set aside by the Howard/Anderson Government for drought relief.

"My greatest disappointment, and I am sure it is shared by farmers, is that the Beattie State Government has not yet recognised or responded to the terrible impacts of this natural disaster on Queensland's farming communities and regional centres.

"If this ongoing natural disaster was treated like the impact of a cyclone or bushfire, the Beattie Government would have had to match Australian Government assistance.

"Unfortunately Mr Palaszczuk and Mr Beattie have worked hard to avoid their responsibilities.

"I challenge Mr Beattie and Mr Palaszczuk to come clean on their $12 million claim. How much of that is loans repayable to the State government purse, weather forecasting and bureaucrats' wages?"

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433