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Budget 2004: Billion-dollar drought commitment.

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DAFF04/111WT - 11 May 2004

Billion-dollar drought commitment

Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss announced today that the estimated Australian Government commitment to farming communities battling drought was forecast to reach $1.1 billion by the end of 2005-06.

"The Australian Government has already spent more than $432 million on drought assistance for farmers and rural communities," Mr Truss said.

"More than 30,000 applications for EC income support have been approved, as well 10,000 applications for EC business support.

"A total of 56 regions around the country covering 62 per cent of our agricultural land are currently declared to be in EC, with more applications currently under assessment."

Mr Truss said this year would also see the Australian Government working in cooperation with the States and Territories on the reform of drought policy.

"The work of the Drought Review Panel and the commitment to reform achieved at the National Drought Roundtable in Canberra on 14 April were major steps towards a more equitable and inclusive approach to dealing with drought," he said.

"Industry and government participants at the Drought Roundtable supported a new approach to drought policy that will emphasise the importance of better preparation for drought and deliver benefits to farmers, their families and rural communities.

"A key result from the roundtable was agreement on the need for the Australian Government, and the State/Territory governments, to reach agreement on new national criteria for drought/EC declarations.

"As I have been advocating reform of the EC process for more than two years I welcomed the roundtable's commitment to making EC assistance more efficient, effective and equitable.

"I very much look forward to progressing this issue with State and Territory Agriculture Ministers at the meeting of the Primary Industries Ministerial Council in Adelaide on May 19.

"I believe that all governments heard the strong messages delivered by rural Australia through the Drought Review and the Drought Roundtable, and we now have the commitment to work cooperatively to improve future drought policy in Adelaide next week."

Further media inquiries:

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