Since 2013 the Coalition Government has provided more than $1.3 billion in assistance to our farmers and their communities experiencing hardship. Our Government continues to be extremely proud of the resilience of our farmers, but appreciate sometimes our farmers need support to face the challenges that come with life on the land.
While the Coalition Government is providing significant levels of support, we understand the importance of continuing to listen to our farmers and their communities as to the effectiveness of the measures in place.
The Prime Minister, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, and the Minister for Agriculture and Water, David Littleproud MP, recently visited a number of drought affected regions across New South Wales and Queensland to see drought conditions on the ground. They wanted to hear first-hand from our farmers about how these conditions are affecting not only them and their families, but also their local communities. Several good ideas were raised during their visit in relation to existing and potential relief measures and our Government is now exploring those options.
In fact the Coalition Government has already acted by immediately extending the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) from three to four years. This will provide an additional year of income support to eligible farmers continuing to face hard times. We have also announced a Farm Liaison Officer through the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) to ensure farmers are getting the right advice at the right time. The new officer will ensure that Government is receiving a clear picture of how our measures are working on-the-ground in drought-affected communities.
In terms of what is currently available to farmers experiencing hardship, the fact sheet below may be of assistance. This includes information on the Rural Financial Counselling Service, the Farm Household Allowance, the Regional Investment Corporation’s concessional loans, pests and weeds funding and primary producer taxation measures. You can also find more information on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ website www.agriculture.gov.au/ag-farm-food/drought/assistance.
If you are worried about anyone, farmer or otherwise, who is doing it tough, please encourage them to seek help. Our rural financial counsellors provide referrals to counsellors and support to access programs. There are also a number of phone and web-based support services of particular help to farmers. They allow access to expertise without the need to travel and are fully confidential. The following numbers can be called free of charge for assistance 24 hours, 7 days a week:
· Lifeline 131 114
· Beyond Blue 1300 224 636
· MensLine Australia 1300 789 978
· Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467