Subjects: Singleton missed out on funding, Drought Policy
JANE KLEIN: - Joel Fitzgibbon and it’s all because Singleton, which of course as we know has been very dry and remains very dry, and has missed out on some funding Joel?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, MEMBER FOR HUNTER – Great to be with you Jane. Very sadly Singleton has missed out on this new round of assistance and it really is crazy what Scott Morrison is saying that if you are in Denman you are in drought; if you are in Jerrys Plains you are not. And locals in Singleton, the Singleton Shire, know that they have been knocked about by the drought. People in the CBD, business people know consumer spending is down because of the drought. This is the test which is supposed to be applied, but again in the third round Singleton has missed out again – Scone, Muswellbrook both receiving the funding but not Singleton. And to rub salt in to the wound, on Friday they announced that Moyne northwest – southwest Victoria will be on the list. Yet the Major down there, and the other councillors, are saying why have you put us on the list, we are not in drought, please give the money to someone further north who needs it more than we do.
KLEIN: That’s a nice thing for him to say. So is this funding not only for drought relief?
FITZGIBBON: Well it’s to create economic stimulus, in theory, in drought-ridden towns. It’s not only the farmers who are suffering during drought; it’s the community because farmers are spending less money in town so it affects the local economy. So this is designed to give some councils some money to do that road project, or that curb and guttering or something they wouldn’t have done immediately because they don’t have the money. I mean it is a modest amount of money – a million dollars is a lot of money to me and you, but to a council it doesn’t get a lot done. So it’s not really going to offer much by way of economic stimulus but given the government hasn’t been doing too much more, it would be nice to secure that $1 million. And again, for some very strange reason, Singleton has missed out again.
KLEIN: So Singleton has been declared droughty stricken?
FITZGIBBON: It depends on the criteria, Jane. If you look have a look at the DPI website in NSW – that is the NSW Government – you will see that Singleton is very, very much in drought. Now the Morrison Government says it has some robust formula to determine which of these towns gets added to the list. But I think the ridiculous situation this weekend where Moyne Shire – not in drought – has been listed and Singleton hasn’t demonstrates that there is no robust formula and we’ve been asking the government for a look at this formula and, of course, that hasn’t been forthcoming. So, a little bit suspicious of it all I’m afraid.
KLEIN: How about some of the other parts in the Hunter that are considered to be in drought, like Denman? Have they received any funding for that?
FITZGIBBON: Denman is in Muswellbrook Shire, so Muswellbrook Council has received money to do projects, and there’s another point about the million dollars – it’s a big shire and a million dollar’s worth of infrastructure works on the part of the council is not going to make much difference, but it is always welcome. I mean, I could argue the case for Cessnock and Maitland, and those areas around Paterson etcetera should all be drought declared for the purposes of this money. My vignerons have been hit by the drought, now Cessnock – if you can’t get Singleton on, you’re not going to get Cessnock or Maitland. So the government should be forthcoming with the formula they are using so we can properly scrutinise it.
KLEIN: So you are going to mount a campaign for that?
FITZGIBBON: Well, I’m a busy boy and I am after the Drought Envoy’s report, but it turns out there isn’t one. I’m after the Drought Coordinator’s report, we know there is one of them but the government won’t hand that over either. The whole thing is shrouded in secrecy. This is because this government keeps kicking this problem down the road hoping it will rain. They thought they were going to lose the election so they thought it was going to be someone else’s problem. Very sadly, Scott Morrison keeps running around talking about the billions he is spending on drought and we know that just to be untrue. He mischievously counts the capital value of all concessional loans that are on offer, for example. So if I lend you $1 million, and you are going to pay me back at an increased interest rate, it doesn’t cost me a million dollars. But even if you don’t borrow the money, he claims the million dollars as a contribution to the drought. Now, that’s very, very misleading and it’s really disappointing that he’s playing that sort of mischievous mischief with the horrors people are facing in the face of a terrible drought.
KLEIN: Certainly not nice, and there hasn’t been any relief so far today with the showers that on a little bit on the coast but nothing so far reported up the valley. Well thanks very much for joining us this morning.
FITZGIBBON: It’s a pleasure thank you.