The Morrison Government has thrown drought-affected farmers into further confusion with its proposed amendments to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA), Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon, said.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the Opposition will support the Farm Household Support Amendment when it reaches the Senate next week, because it will extend FHA payments to a total of four years in every 10 years and establish a lump-sum relief payment for those who exhaust their four-year FHA.
However, the proposed amendments are confusing in their intent and application.
“The Government has not justified removing drought-affected farmers off the modest FHA payment, while they still endure the current drought,” said Mr Fitzgibbon.
“Nor has the Government offered any policy rationale for cutting people off and then offering an up-front payment equal to payments for the following six months. It became even less logical when Ministers started sending different messages about further possible lump-sum payments.
“Our farmers don’t know what going on. How can they plan?”
Mr Fitzgibbon said the increased FHA time-period will not commence until 1 July 2024, which leaves many farming families without any financial assistance over the next four years.
Furthermore, the relief payment will only be paid to around 1800 recipients who have exhausted their FHA prior to 1 July 2020.
“The Government must explain the intent behind the relief payment and under what circumstances any additional relief payments may be made by the Minister,” said Mr Fitzgibbon.
“There have been mixed messages from the Government about whether the relief payment is an exit payment. It appears the Government may be trying to kick any future payments beyond the Budget year, putting its quest for a Budget surplus ahead of the plight of our farmers.”
There are currently over 600 farmers who are eligible for the lump sum payments that have been cut off from the modest FHA payment since July 2019. Another 1,100 will be cut off by Christmas.