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Transcript of doorstop interview: Sydney: 3 May 2013: national drought policy reform; Farm Finance

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Media contact: Elliot Stein 0400 082 352 or Katana Smith 0459 813 574

S e n a t o r t h e H o n . J o e L u d w i g

M i n i s t e r f o r A g r i c u l t u r e , F i s h e r i e s a n d F o r e s t r y

S e n a t o r f o r Q u e e n s l a n d

TRANSCRIPT: DOORSTOP, SYDNEY TRANSCRIPTION: E & OE DATE: 3 May 2013 TOPICS: National drought policy reform, Farm Finance

JOE LUDWIG: Thank you for the opportunity. Today is a very important day for all the States and Territories and the Federal Government. Today we have signed an agreement for a new national drought policy. That new policy is about building preparedness into rural Australia for a drought policy that will endure. All the States and Territories should be congratulated for coming together to make this happen. They have also supported it all the way through, it’s been a long haul for everyone to get this up and running. We’ve had a trial in Western Australia to develop the elements of the package, the package has now been finalised by the States and Territories and we’re in a position now of being able to progress it.

What is very important that it builds that preparedness for a drought policy rather than the way we have been reactive in the past. In past droughts we have been reactive; we have not had a system in place that builds that preparedness into drought policy.

So in conclusion can I then once say again thank all the States and Territories for the work that they have done in coming forward today on Friday the 3rd of May to finalise our new national drought policy.

JOURNALIST: How can farmers prepare for drought though when weather is indiscriminate and what’s happening the markets how can they actually prepare with these measures that you’ve introduced?

JOE LUDWIG: One of the things about farmers is they’re incredibly resilient. And what this drought policy does is capitalise on that resilience by building skills around farm finance, building skills around ensuring that they can access climate information so that they can make the right decisions, but it also provides for in adversity.

There’s a farm family payment to support farmers through those really tough times when there’s no income coming through. So that’s the way the policy will build that resilience. What is important to recognise that in Australia, our climate is variable. In my experience and in the last 2011 all the way through to now we’ve had two major and significant floods in Queensland, we’ve had bushfires in Victoria and Tasmania,

Media contact: Elliot Stein 0400 082 352 or Katana Smith 0459 813 574

all of that tells me that the climate is extraordinarily variable but really, farmers are resilient. All of them are recovering and building through these adversities.

JOURNALIST: What must a farmer be experiencing to prove his or her eligibility?

JOE LUDWIG: One of the important things to recognise, this new drought policy, when we all came together to develop it, we said one of the first criteria: no lines on maps. We’re not going to have criteria that determined whether you’re in drought or not in drought. The new drought policy will continue on throughout, no lines on maps, no declarations, no exceptional circumstances, no National Rural Advisory Council wandering around telling people on one side of the line they’re in drought and the other side of the line they’re not in drought. No lines on maps means that the policy in place, and you can access the policy, if you meet the criteria. In other words if you’ve got no income and you need income then that farm family payment will be there from July 2014.

JOURNALIST: Does it take into account assets that might be raising money for farmers or raising revenue?

JOE LUDWIG: What it does do is it will go through an assessment process but it’s important to recognise that no lines on maps. This drought policy is there to continue to prepare farmers whatever the circumstances are, whatever they face.

What I’ve also done though to recognise some of the headwinds that farmers are now facing today, myself with the Deputy Prime Minister last Saturday, implemented and put on the table a Farm Finance package. That Farm Finance package is about dealing with circumstances today. So I recognise around the country famers are suffering some real debt issues. They’re certainly suffering some stress, what I put on the table is a Farm Finance Package that I am asking the states to sign up to. It’s about building issues around today. It’s about helping them get through some of those strong headwinds.

The Farm Finance package has four basic elements: it has a concession loan; it has debt mediation so farmers can talk to their bank managers; it makes flexibility more important around what’s called farm managed deposits so it allows them to have greater off farm income. All of that comes together to support farmers in the field.

JOURNALIST:: Who is eligible for those low interest loans that you announced at the weekend, in particular regarding Victoria and SPC [inaudible].

JOE LUDWIG: That’s a good example of would meet those eligibility criteria, because what we want to do is help farmers who want to consolidate their debt, who want to diversify or want to change their operations, so that’s be a perfect example I think, of Victoria signing up and being able to assist with concessional loans that those famers who are in, who are suffering some of those real adverse conditions.

JOURNALIST:: [inaudible] are farmers able to sign up for these deals now? Or able to access this support now?

Media contact: Elliot Stein 0400 082 352 or Katana Smith 0459 813 574

JOE LUDWIG: I need the states, what is really important is I need the States and Territories to sign up. Without States and Territories signed up, I can’t deliver the Farm Finance package. States know that, they’re certainly now going to look at it. What I need them to do is sign up today.