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Drought is sadly a recurring feature in Australia and for more than two decades now the Commonwealth and State/Territory governments’ policy approach has been towards preparedness and resilience. Since 2013, the Coalition Government has provided more than $1.8 billion in assistance measures to help farmers and communities in drought.
As you may be aware, farmers and communities, particularly in western New South Wales and Queensland, have faced particularly tough conditions in recent months. In response, the Coalition Government has rolled out a comprehensive drought relief package, providing thousands of families with the support they need to fight one of the worst droughts of the past century.
Our Liberal National Government has extended the availability of the Farm Household Allowance scheme from three to four years, effective from 1 August. This was the most prominent recommendation made on the course of the Government’s listening tour in drought-stricken communities in June. We are now announcing further significant changes to the existing Farm Household Allowance scheme that will provide two lump sum supplementary payments worth up to $12,000 for eligible households. We are also changing the assets test to allow thousands more farmers to access support. This is a special payment in recognition of the severity of this drought.
The Government is also investing an extra $5 million in the Rural Financial Counselling Service, which will provide additional support for farmers - particularly those applying for the FHA for the first time. This will make a serious difference for the estimated 19,000 farmers who are potentially eligible for the FHA but have not applied for it.
Our Liberal National Government understands the mental toll the drought takes on farmers, families and rural communities. The Government is investing $11.4 million in mental health support initiatives.
Additionally, the Drought Communities Programme will be expanded and receive an additional $75 million to help support an initial 60 councils in drought-stricken areas, funding local community infrastructure and other projects, such as emergency water supply. This measure recognises that support is also needed for the communities and businesses that back our farmers.
The Government is also doubling the amount a farmer can borrow in low-interest loans to $2 million and increasing the total amount available for these loans to $500 million in any one year. These loans will assist with financing immediate needs such as purchasing feed and fodder.
This is short overview of just some of the measures enacted by the Coalition in response to the current drought. Please find below a link to a fact sheet that provides more detail on the Coalition’s drought policy.
The Government stands shoulder to shoulder with our farmers to ensure they can survive the severe and widespread drought that has affected so many. Our farmers are the backbone of the nation, providing the produce all Australians rely on.