The Morrison Government’s response to the drought grew even more chaotic last night on ABC’s Q and A show when Drought Minister David Littleproud said 1700 farming families would be cut off Farm Household Allowance, but they wouldn’t be cut off the extension to the Farm Household Allowance (FHA).
Mr Littleproud gave hope to the 1700 farmers at the end of their Farm House Allowance when he announced, “We’ve continued to evolve as the drought’s evolved, and that’s what we’ll continue to do. The Prime Minister said that. Even Farm Household Assistance – those that come off it after four years, they will continue to stay on it, under the supplementary payments, until this drought is over.”
Mr Littleproud’s statement was in contradiction to Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Environment Minister Sussan Ley, who have all referred to the FHA extension as a single payment.
Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the statements by Minister Littleproud brought more confusion to farming families. “It’s another example of the Morrison Government’s chaotic policy-on-the-run approach to the devastating drought. Minister Littleproud suggested last night that the six-month cash-payment the Government plans to provide farming families being cut off FHA, will be paid more than once.”
Mr Littleproud said, “It’s actually 600 [farmers who have come off FHA] and there’s another 1100 to come off, but they will still get a supplementary payment. So we are not taking the money away from their pocket. The Prime Minister made it clear that no one will come off those payments, we will continue to make a supplementary payments until June next year, and in May, we will have to make another decision if it hasn’t rained.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said there was nothing in previous Government statements to support Mr Littleproud’s statements. “The extension to the FHA, announced on October 17, was framed as a one-off extension to the FHA, paid as a lump-sum, for those FHA recipients who have exhausted their four-year FHA limit. It is clear that the one-off cash payment of $7,500 for singles and $13,000 for couples is the “exit payment” that Barnaby Joyce and the NFF were talking about last week.”
The Minister responsible for FHA, Agriculture Minister Senator Bridget McKenzie, said on October 17, “the one-off payment was designed to help people determine whether they will be sustainable, should look at succession options, or in some instances chose to sell.”
The Prime Minister, on Sky News’ Paul Murray Live, the Prime Minister was clear that the FHA only lasts four years: “… over a four year period they will have received – each family – about $125,000 each family. Now, that’s on top of what other income they may be able to earn … That’s what we do with Farm Household Allowance, and it’s the right program and we’ve eased it up – four years out of every 10.”
On Sky News’ Kenny Report today – interviewed by Shari Markson – Environment Minister Sussan Ley said farmers were entitled to the Farm Household Allowance for four years, after which they could explore their opportunities with rural counselling.
Mr Fitzgibbon said 600 farming families had already been cut from FHA and had not received any exit cash payment. “They will not do so until the amending legislation passes the Parliament. Hundreds more will soon follow.
“It’s past-time we had a national drought policy and put an end to the chaotic, piecemeal and ad hoc approach we’ve had from the Morrison Government. The Government is wrapped up in its infighting, and drought policy chaos is the result. The Government must provide certainty in its drought response.”