TRANSCRIPT: Doorstop Attunga, NSW - 7 August 2018
Subjects: assistance for drought-affected farmers
It’s really important I have attended the first of several forums – here with Kevin Anderson, here with Barnaby Joyce – listening to farmers, listening to communities about what we can further do to help them through this dreadful, dreadful drought.
We have 22 representatives of various Government agencies – both state and federal: mental health, rural financial counselling, the Taxation Office, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s office, Centrelink, all sorts of help and advice.
I would urge and encourage farmers and communities: don’t self-assess. Make sure you get the help that’s available. It is there. It’s there from the state. It’s there from the federal government. There’s a lot of care and support in this hall at Attunga. This hall has probably not seen this amount of activity for quite some time. It’s very important.
This is the first forum of several. We are going to have future forums at Narrabri, Glen Innes and other places and we will continue them if the demand is there. Of course we will continue them through Queensland and other parts of New South Wales. It’s really important we are there as Government agencies enabling people to know what help is available.
There’s plenty of help there. People just have to ask for it and they may be eligible for something that is just going to help them through this trying time.
What’s the feedback you’ve received?
We’ve received good feedback. There has been strong feedback. But of course there is more that we can do – there’s obviously more that we can do. And we will be doing that.
Obviously NSW Parliament is in session at the moment. I congratulate Kevin Anderson for getting a pair and coming down here – that’s how important it is to him. I will be going back to Parliament next week – I have been talking to Malcolm Turnbull each and every day about this drought. He understands how critical it is. He owns land up in the north of NSW so he’s feeling it too. But he’s not feeling it as much as the farmers for whom their entire livelihoods – farmers for whom, they are generational family farmers – and they have never seen it so bad.
So they are feeling the effects. And rest assured, if they are feeling the effects we too as MPs are. These are our communities. We live here. We breathe it. We live it. And we want to be able to be there to help.
Is it too late for some cattle producers – in particular – who have had to sell off some of that breeding stock?
The worrying thing is some cattle producers, some sheep producers, have de-stocked. And they have done it because they could not find the fodder. They have done it because of animal welfare. It is going to take some time – at least three years – for some of those farmers who fully destocked to regrow their herds and mobs.
So that’s a concern and that’s why the Federal Government and the State Government will be there for them as well going forward. Not just now – not just tomorrow or next week – this is going to take months, even perhaps a few years, to recover from. And of course we need it to rain. Most of all we need it to rain.
Barnaby Joyce has been pushing to get leaders of government together for a drought summit. So Premiers, the states, the Prime Minister, yourself. Do you think that’s likely? Do you think we might have Malcolm Turnbull in the region in the next few months?
Malcolm Turnbull has been in the regions – he was at Trangie on Sunday for the second visit. We had a listening tour back in June. We went throughout north west NSW and south western Queensland. He understands. He’s feeling it too.
And of course he is getting daily calls from MPs throughout the drought-stricken regional areas. He understands full well the implications of this drought and what it means to the national economy.
When our farmers do well the nation does well. When they are struggling the nation also feels the full effect of that downturn in the agriculture sector. It’s one of our most important – if not the most important – sectors of all. It provides the food and fibre. You can do without a lot of sectors each day, but every Australian three times a day needs to be able to thank a farmer. And they can thank them by making sure they do what they can as well. Dig deep into your pockets, help these farmers and make sure they get the love, care and support they need from areas as well.
I sometimes feel there is a disconnect between rural and regional and cities communities. But not with this drought. We have seen on social media so many people in city areas, in metropolitan areas, reach out to see and ask what they can do to help. And the best thing you can do to help is dig deep. Send some money to these regional communities and buy Australian goods - locally produced food and fibre.
We’ve got the very best farmers in the world. They are the most resilient. They are also being tested.
Is that the message at the moment – to try and move away from offering groceries and move towards monetary donations?
We need small businesses to survive in these regional communities as well. There are hampers coming in from left, right and centre but that also affects the small businesses around here which are also struggling to survive. They live off the money over their counters and through their tills and that can only be supplied by people shopping local. And that’s what we urge and encourage at this time.
Thank you very much.