SUBJECT: Drought Assistance Package failure

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR RURAL AFFAIRS:  I just heard Minister Barnaby Joyce on ABC Television talking about the drought in rural Australia, acknowledging how bad it is, and it is very bad, but the best he can do twelve months into office is to say that he has had an “informal discussion” with the Treasurer which is an acknowledgment that both the drought package is not working and that more needs to be done.  And then he went on to blame the former Labor Government, twelve months into the term of this Government.  Last week we saw Bruce Scott, a very senior member of the Coalition saying the drought package is not working; the week before we saw Ian MacFarlane, a senior Cabinet Minister saying he now realises the drought package is not working and yet today we see very little response from the Minister. When the Prime Minister did his drought tour in February, it proved a great political circuit breaker for him but it is very clear now that it did nothing for farming communities and it is about time that Barnaby Joyce stopped blaming others and did something about what is a very, very severe situation in rural and regional Australia.

JOURNALIST:  What would you like specifically?

FITZGIBBON:  Well the first thing Barnaby Joyce should do is re-establish the SCoPI which was the COAG’s Standing Committee which dealt with these matters. We need a national approach to drought.  We can’t do this properly without the cooperation of the States. That’s the path the Labor Government had gone down in its Reform of Drought Package.  The problem is that drought reform has not been progressed by this Government.  We saw a knee-jerk reaction out of the drought tour but nothing that is proving to be of any assistance to those families who are most affected by drought.


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