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Beattie Government short-changes Queensland farmers.



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AFFA03/156WT - 4 June 2003

Beattie Government short-changes Queensland farmers

The Beattie Government has once again short-changed Queensland farmers on drought relief in yesterday's State Budget, Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today.

"Once again, State Agriculture Minister Henry Palaszczuk has already admitted in Queensland Parliament on 28 May that the Beattie Government had provided just $4.8M directly to the State's farmers - only a tiny fraction of the drought aid already committed to Queensland farmers by the Howard/Anderson Government," Mr Truss said.

"The State budget seems to present no new initiatives for the State's drought-affected farmers. All farmers can expect from Mr Palaszczuk in the year ahead are empty words and demands for the Commonwealth to step in where he has failed. More than 2,500 applications for Commonwealth drought assistance have already been approved in Queensland.

"The Commonwealth estimates it will have provided $171.9 million in assistance directly to Queensland farmers during this drought and the recovery, yet the Beattie Government in yesterday's Budget allocated a miserly $25 million, almost all of which will go to climate forecasts and bureaucrats' wages. They could find $8 million to prosecute farmers who may breach Mr Beattie's complicated tree-clearing laws - but nothing to help farmers facing drought crisis.

"There now seems no hope that the Beattie Government will take up the challenge I have set it to show real compassion for Queensland farmers by matching Federal drought spending dollar-for-dollar.

"The Federal Government has been told to expect more Exceptional Circumstances (EC) applications from Queensland, yet the Beattie Government is clearly unwilling to boost its own drought spending."

There are seven EC-declared areas in Queensland. An application for the Burnett region is currently undergoing preliminary assessment. Areas receiving Commonwealth EC assistance are: Eastern Darling Downs, Peak Downs, South West Queensland, Sunshine Coast and Hinterland, Western Downs and Maranoa, Central Coastal Region, Southern South East.

"The Coalition Federal Government understands that farmers need drought relief during the event and assistance with recovery, which is why EC support runs for two years," Mr Truss said.

"No Commonwealth Government has ever delivered more aid during a drought than the Howard/Anderson Government and state governments have never done less than the Beattie Government."

Further media inquiries:

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