Minister pitches drought towns to tourists

27/09/2019 Posted by admin

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud is urging Australians to help struggling farmers by visiting rural communities ravaged by drought.
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Mr Littleproud, who is extending a welfare payment known as the farm household allowance from three to four years, argues it is not just the federal government’s responsibility to support towns through dry spells.

“I encourage every Australian, if they want to do their bit for farmers and regional and rural communities, get off your arse and get out there,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Mr Littleproud has also pledged $20 million for rural financial counsellors and $2 million for mental health, after leading the prime minister on a tour of drought-hit outback NSW and Queensland earlier this month.

Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon welcomed the announcements but argued they didn’t go far enough.

The opposition is worried about farming families already forced off the allowance.

Concerns have long been raised that farmers simply fall off the welfare system when the household allowance dries up.

Mr Littleproud acknowledged the same issue would arise in a four-year scheme, but described the extension as a line in the sand.

“We can’t get everyone through life,” he said.

“The reality is you can’t enjoy the fruits of a market economy without a fear of failure. You’re not owed a living. Nobody’s owed a living, but we try to support where we can.”

National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson said the group recognised there was no silver bullet to dealing with drought.

“The NFF believes a best-practice drought support strategy must address risk management and preparedness, support during drought and assistance to enable rapid recovery,” Ms Simson said.

“The farm household allowance is a vital part of the during-drought support for farming families.”

Mr Littleproud was also asked if the extension may need to be followed by conversations about whether some areas are no longer appropriate farming land given the effects of climate change.

“The climate’s been changing since we first put a till in the soil and the reality is it will continue to change,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Farmers have always adapted to that, we are continuing to work through that, and the market will always decide that.”

Ms Simson said farmers were under no illusion the climate was becoming increasingly variable and the sector needed to adapt.

Australian Associated Press

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