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PM admits drought assistance management flawed.

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Gavan O'Connor - PM Admits Drought Assistance Management Flawed Tuesday, 31 July 2001

PM Admits Drought Assistance Management Flawed Gavan O'Connor - Shadow Minister for Agriculture

Media Statement - 30 July 2001

Having finally admitted that parts of Western Australia and Southern Queensland are suffering a severe drought, the Prime Minister ought to fast track a decision on the applications for Exceptional Circumstances assistance for these areas, according to Shadow Agriculture Minister, Gavan O'Connor.

"Unemployment benefits may put food on the tables for farmers but they won't do anything about rising debt levels or meeting the costs of replanting," Gavan O'Connor said.

"Many of these farmers are now in their third year of very low income as a result of drought and, in the case of some Western Australian regions, frost as well, and they have been left with virtually no means to service debt.

"An immediate decision on the Exceptional Circumstances applications is needed so that interest rate assistance can also start to flow.

"The Prime Minister's announcement left farmers and rural communities with as many questions as answers.

"Farmers who have contacted Labor have been asking if they will have to repay the Newstart assistance should their Exceptional Circumstances applications be rejected?

"Many farmers are concerned that unless they gain access to the interest subsidy component of Exceptional Circumstances assistance, they will be unable to finance the planting of next year's crop.

"At least the Prime Minister has finally been forced to admit that his Government's management of Exceptional Circumstances has been flawed and is in need of an overhaul.

"Federal Labor and Labor State Governments have been calling for a complete review of the Howard Government's management of Exceptional Circumstances for some time now.

"There can be no excuse for further delays in making a decision on Exceptional Circumstances assistance

for the drought stricken parts of West Australia and Queensland. Authorised by Geoff Walsh, 19 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600.

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