The ongoing chaos around the Farm Household Allowance supplement payment shows contempt for farmers and highlights splits between the Liberals and the Nationals, and within the National Party, Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said today.
“The internal wars in the Coalition are a distraction at a time when Government members should be focussing on drought assistance,” Mr Fitzgibbon said, in response the Nationals leader Michael McCormack’s confusing comments about the FHA on Sky News this morning.
He said the Drought Minister David Littleproud had a thought-bubble by talking about indefinite rounds of Farm Household Allowance (FHA) extension payments during an appearance on Q&A on Monday night. But the Nationals’ Leader Michael McCormack has admitted on Sky News that the payment of multiple FHA extensions is not yet Government policy and has not been cleared by Cabinet. He also admitted that the FHA supplement payments have not been costed.
“The internal debate has left farmers angry and confused. It has also promoted false hope. There are drought-affected farming families who might be making decisions based on what their government tells them about the Farm Household Allowance supplementary payment, but they’re confused by mixed messages coming from the Government – a confusion created because the Government is at war with itself.
“Can Scott Morrison answer a simple question: is the FHA supplement a one-off payment, or is it an ongoing payment? And who is the final word on the FHA supplementary payments?
“We have an historic drought that’s putting farmers and communities in a desperate situation. This cannot become a silly argument between Nationals and Liberals over who gets to make an announcement.”
In response to farming families reaching their four year limit on Farm Household Allowance, the scheme had a lump-sum payment added to it by the Government on October 17. The FHA supplement is a six-month payment of $7500 for singles and $13,000 for couples, and was framed as a one-off exit payment by Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie when she announced it.
There had been subsequent statements from Drought Minister David Littleproud, Environment Minister Sussan Ley and now Nationals Leader Michael McCormack, all with slightly different versions of the FHA supplement.
Mr Fitzgibbon said Labor had offered a bipartisan approach to the drought response, in the form of a Drought Cabinet that takes politics out of the process.
“It doesn’t concern us whether it’s called a War Cabinet or a Drought Cabinet or a multi-party advisory council. We need a comprehensive plan for what we are doing for these communities as summer approaches, and the first thing we need to see is the Drought Coordinator’s report. We need a plan. We have to get beyond the chaos and infighting and act in the best interests of Australians.”