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Drought assistance continues for farmers.

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Press Release Ref: 1573 Published: 16/8/2005 Title: Drought Assistance Continues for Farmers

Federal Member for Eden-Monaro, Gary Nairn, has responded to comments made by the Labor Party’s New South Wales Senator, Ursula Stephens, about Exceptional Circumstances on ABC south-east yesterday morning saying her comments indicate she does not understand what the Australian Government’s drought assistance is actually doing.

“Ms Stephens accused the Australian Government of cutting off drought assistance once it rains - this is not truth,” Mr Nairn said.

“While the recent rain over much of Australia was very welcome it is not the case that the drought is over. It takes a severe toll on farmers, their families and local communities and that is why there is ongoing assistance for recovery.

“The Australian Government has already provided about $750 million in direct assistance to Australian farmers, overall the Australian Government provides 96 per cent of EC funding and currently we are providing an additional $4 million in assistance each week.”

Mr Nairn said the Exceptional Circumstances criteria is a complex issue. The Australian Government acknowledges more changes are needed and has pushed forward by streamlining the EC process despite the States reluctance to change.

“The streamlined process was introduced by the Australian Government in July 2004 to provide a continuation of assistance to farmers without the States having to prepare and lodge applications,” Mr Nairn said.

“The Australian Government has put forward changes and some farmers are now into their second year of roll over recovery,” he said.

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“We also introduced prima facia EC, so farmers don’t have to wait for assistance.”

Mr Nairn said Ms Stephens should acknowledge the changes already made by the Australian Government and she could assist by lobbying State Labor to provide more assistance to NSW farmers.