JOEL FITZGIBBON - MEDIA RELEASE - LATEST DROUGHT PACKAGE DISAPPOINTING - THURSDAY, 7 NOVEMBER 2019

LATEST DROUGHT PACKAGE DISAPPOINTING

The Government’s umpteenth drought package fails all the basic tests.
 

  1. Farming families already taken off Farm Household will not be restored and hundreds more will be cut off in coming months;
  2. We still have no comprehensive strategic plan; and
  3. There is no initiative to put food on the kitchen table, or to improve farm cash flow. 

 
“More loans, more loans, rebadged loans. Loans which are hard to secure because of the viability test.  How do you prove viability when you are entering your seventh, eighth or ninth year of severe drought,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
 
“There will still be almost 1800 families coming off Farm Household Allowance this financial year, and the lump-sum relief payment is still a one-off unless the Minister responsible decides to make another six-month payment. It’s a wing on a prayer.”
 
Mr Fitzgibbon said at the heart of the Government’s response to the drought is a lack of planning.
 
"The fact is the Government still doesn’t have a plan and the long awaited release of Major General Day’s Drought report clearly recommends that a whole of Government Drought Strategy should be developed and implemented.
 
“Yet sadly the Prime Minister is once again being loose-with-the-truth, claiming Major General Day’s recommendations has been embraced and implemented. Where is this phantom plan?”
 

Governance, evaluation and review

Response

Status

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources should lead the development and implementation of a drought strategy and drive whole of government engagement on drought. 

The Plan has been developed and will be continually reviewed.

Underway

 
As with earlier concessional loans the devil will be in the detail.  Farming groups have been critical of the announcement because shuffling debt won’t be the answer for most farmers.
 
The package provides interest-free loans for two years at which stage they revert to 3.11 per cent interest. Mr Fitzgibbon said the idea of farmers having to borrow their way out of debt was not realistic for many of them.
 
“The idea behind the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC), which is administering most of the drought loans, is the RIC takes you on and then you go back to your bank before the loan is fully re-paid.
 
“So you can only meet the RIC criteria if they think you’ll meet the bank’s criteria. That will be an impossible test for most farmers in drought.”


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