Doorstop with Sky News with The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, Member for New England Attunga, NSW

Reporter: Is the financial assistance—big grants—the scale for local councils; is that enough? Should they be scaled differently to make it more fair?

Michael McCormack: There’s always more that we can do and there’s always more that we will do.

But we’re working very closely with local government, state government, with key stakeholder groups such as the NSW Farmers’ Association, in Queensland with AgForce, and local members are obviously taking readings from their farmers on the ground and feeding that back into the process.

We go back to Parliament next week, and we’ll certainly sit and discuss as a Ministry and as Members of Parliament, as a party, as the National Party, what we can do to further help the farmers.

$12,000, as Barnaby has just said, is a good payment and it’ll be very well received. But, it’s going to pay for a few bills, put a bit of food on the table. But we need to do more, we will do more. And we just need it to rain. We can’t make it rain, but we can certainly be in there helping these farmers, doing what we can and listening to them.

That’s why I’m really pleased today—I can see Russell Webb up there—he’s been one of the people who’ve organised this day today. But today we’ve got the CWA, we’ve got the Salvation Army, we’ve got R U Aware We Care? Campaign. There’s so many people willing to help and pitch in—that’s what Australians do.

Farmers are struggling. When farmers struggle, the nation struggles. But, we’re all in behind them.

Reporter: But are financial assistant grants enough for local communities? Is there a problem with the scaling?

Michael McCormack: I’ll be having a discussion with the Local Government Minister. I know John McVeigh is the Regional Development Minister as well; I just spoke to him on the phone. We’re looking at all those sorts of things that we can do.

But what we are also our doing, as the Infrastructure and Transport Minister, I’m bringing forward some of the programs such as roads recovery to help these local councils, make sure they’ve got a bit of work in their area and even to help some of the farmers who maybe seeking some off-farm income so you know, get a few of those road projects up and happening.

Reporter: What about you, Barnaby? Do you think the scaling should change?

Barnaby Joyce: What the discussions always are about is how we make sure we keep the economies and the local towns going. This is not just a drought for farmers, it’s a drought for hairdressers, it’s a drought for tyre businesses, it’s a drought for cafes. It’s a drought for everybody because the money dries up.

If we lost our breeding stock, then we’d have a real problem. So, bringing forward the capital works that Michael was just mentioning is a great outcome because that allows us to basically keep the thing firing along. And we’re already doing that.

See the work we’re doing up in Tenterfield? The town’s completely packed out. That’s because we’ve got the projects up and running. See what’s happening down Scone? Same thing. Business coming to town because we’re bringing for those cattle works projects.

We’re making sure the money keeps spinning around the town. This leaves a legacy after the drought, that’s a positive legacy so you can actually say: well, whilst the drought was on, we didn’t just help, we also built.

Reporter: Is the forum here today a good, practical thing to get all of these agencies together?

Barnaby Joyce: I think it’s a great idea and looks like it’s well supported. But we’re going to be very much looked down on unless we get in there right now.