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Young EC relief payment to be reinstated.

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Young EC relief payment to be reinstated Friday, 18 November 2005

Months of lobbying has resulted in an extension of the Exceptional Circumstances period for broadacre livestock and crop producers in the Young Rural Lands Protection Board area.

EC relief payments will now expire on 2 March 2006 and interest rate subsidies on 8 April 2006.

Stone fruit producers have access to drought relief until 21 July 2006.

Member for Hume Alby Schultz said it was regrettable there had been a delay in announcing the extension however he was pleased that the Acting Minister Ian Macdonald had accepted the advice of the National Rural Advisory Council — an independent group of farmers and agribusiness professionals — that recovery had started but extra time was needed to ensure it continued.

He said the events which led to the delay were of great concern to him and that he had taken the matter up with both the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Human Services, who is responsible for overseeing Centrelink.

“I am aware that drought recovery has only just begun in Young and that the delay in announcing this extension has caused a great deal of grief for many of my constituents,” Mr Schultz said.

“People are assured that I have been doing everything I can to ensure a speedy decision in this case and that although payments did cease recently, which was regrettable, Centrelink will provide back pay for those people who had been receiving the EC relief payment,” he said.

In addition to the extension of the relief payment and interest rate subsidy period, Mr Schultz said farmers would also benefit from the new, simpler off-farm assets test for interest rate subsidies, an increase in the rate of the subsidy from 50 to 80 per cent and a reduced waiting period between applications - as announced by the Australian Government in May this year.

Mr Schultz said people should not self assess their eligibility for assistance but should contact Centrelink's National Drought Helpline on 13 23 16 to discuss their circumstances.