Doorstop with Channel 7

Michael McCormack: It’s tough for farmers obviously, they’re not smiling in many parts of the country even though we’ve had decent drops of rain in some areas, very patchy in others and some areas have missed out. So we need to make sure that we have the right measures, the right assistance packages in place and that’s what we’re doing today.

So really pleased that the Roads to Recovery funding for 128 councils is- they’re going to get a top-up. Really pleased that each and every one of the councils is also going get an additional $1 million on top of the $1 million that they’ve already received. It’s made such a difference in those areas – the ability to upgrade their showgrounds, look at their main streets, do a few things like that, their memorial halls, give them a lick of paint – which has kept employment in the town, which has kept money generating around the town.
And those farm hands who may have long been gone, who may have just taken off, have stayed in the communities, stayed in those rural and regional areas and taken the job with the local council and that’s kept that money generating around the town – and so it’s so important.

And of course the concessional loans that we’re providing today through the Regional Investment Corporation, so for agribusinesses and farmers want to avail themselves of those loans well they can, and they’re encouraged to do so. Of course they don’t have to. If they need to take a loan for whatever the case might be - to keep breeding stock and all that, that’s available for them. If an agribusiness needs to take a loan to help them through these very, very difficult times that’s available to them. But we’re not telling businesses or farmers that they have to do it, but the option’s there if they want to do it.

I know, I come from a generational farming family. I have two sisters who are on the land and they tell me how tough it is. And I know, and I appreciate just how difficult it is for those areas for whom the landscape looks very much like this carpet – there’s not a blade of grass on it. And for them having to hand feed, indeed, having to take their stock off to get processed is very, very difficult. So that’s why our Government is providing this additional assistance today.

So I’ll be having more to say later on in the morning; it’s a good package of measures. Of course we will continue to monitor, continue to monitor this drought. Hopefully it won’t progress too much longer, but if it does the Government will be right there backing our rural and regional communities.

Journalist: What do you say to criticism from Labor that this is ad hoc, that we still need a comprehensive drought strategy?

Michael McCormack: Well, we’ve got a comprehensive drought strategy, we’ve actually got a National Drought Policy in place, we’ve got the Future Drought Fund. You might recall that Labor initially voted against the Future Drought Fund – so that’s a $5 billion, $5 billion drought assistance package, not for this drought but indeed for future droughts. So this is the first time in history that a government is not only just addressing the drought that is besetting us now, but also looking at future droughts and what we can, we must and we will do as a responsible Federal Government to support those farmers, to support those rural and regional communities – that’s what a good government does. The Opposition, well they can shout from the fringes all they like. They know full well in their heartof hearts that we are doing the right and responsible thing.

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Journalist: Will this satisfy everyone in your party? Barnaby Joyce has been calling for a $1.3 billion package.

Michael McCormack: But that was contingent on the states kicking the tin too. This package that we’re announcing today is new money. This package today is not contingent on states also stumping up. It’s new money, it’s good money, it’s right money and we’re providing it for our farmers, for our rural and regional communities. And we’ll continue to support them, we’ll continue to monitor just how bad this drought is. Hopefully the rains will come. Thank you