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Palaszczuk's phantom cuts.

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AFFA01/140WT 1 June 2001

Palaszczuk’s phantom cuts

Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss has called on his Queensland counterpart, Henry Palaszczuk, to retract his inaccurate claims about the funding of rural assistance measures in this year's Federal Budget.

"Mr Palaszczuk is making these ridiculous claims to cover up his embarrassment at the obvious failure of his Government to provide assistance to sugar, tobacco and dairy farmers in need.

"The Member for Inala is engaging in some political point-scoring with his comments about the 2001-02 Budget for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia (AFFA), and in doing so, has manufactured a so-called cut of $100 million in 'rural assistance'.

"He couldn't have got it more wrong. In fact, the 2001-02 Budget continues the substantial increase of $309.4 million over four years in rural assistance funding announced in the previous Budget. Mr Palaszczuk can't argue with these figures so he has instead made misleading comments about special assistance programs.

"What Mr Palaszcsuk neglects to mention is that the so-called 'cut' only exists because of exceptional, one-off expenditure in this financial year for particular crises. This is clear in page 6-43 of Budget Paper No 1:

Expenses peak in 2000-01 because of the level of exceptional circumstance assistance to rural communities in addition to the flood assistance and sugar industry assistance packages.

"This year, the Federal Government provided unprecedented emergency assistance to the sugar industry and to farmers affected by the devastating floods in northern NSW and south-east Queensland.

"We naturally hope that there will not be a repeat of these exceptional natural disasters, but as always, the Federal Government will meet its obligations. The Government is providing $216 million for flood assistance over two years, with the majority of the expenditure occurring this financial year.

"The response to the Flood Assistance Package has been very encouraging with 6,239 claims for income support, interest rate subsidies and replanting assistance (of which 2,748 claims were for income support) granted to farming families since the package was announced on 5 December 2000.

"The sugar package, which was announced in September 2000, and involved significant industry consultation, includes income support, interest rate relief and financial counselling, and will provide up to $83 million over two years. More than 7,400 claims have already been approved.

"The package is designed to help the industry through a significant downturn caused by a combination of adverse weather conditions, problems with disease and low world prices. It had a particular focus on the replanting of diseased and damaged cane to help growers maximise the benefits of improving world prices.

"The Queensland Government did not contribute to these measures, despite the fact that the sugar industry is

one of the pillars of the Queensland economy. Now, Minister Palaszczuk has the gall to try to mislead the public into thinking that the Federal Government is reducing its core programs or winding back on its commitments which is simply not true."


Minister's office: Yvonne Best (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 415 772

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Last updated 1 June 2001

URL: Commonwealth of Australia 2000