Interview with Hamish Macdonald, The Project, Channel 10

Hamish Macdonald: Well, earlier I spoke with the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

Now, farmers have been calling out for help for months. Now why has it taken us this long to get to the point where you’re announcing these grants?

Michael McCormack: Well, in June the Prime Minister and I visited Phillip and Ashley Miles’ property, ‘Strathmore’, near Trangie and we listened. We sat around their kitchen table. We then went on to other parts of Queensland and we sat around the kitchen table and listened to other farmers there.

We responded then with a package of measures for mental health support and rural financial counselling support and we’ve again answered the call to make sure that they can get through this drought. To make sure that they can sustain themselves until it rains again and we cross our fingers and we pray for them—that rain comes very, very soon.

Hamish Macdonald: Deputy Prime Minister, we’ve spent all of this week filming in Western New South Wales meeting many of those farmers.

So many of them are spending tens of thousands of dollars a week just bringing in feed for their stock from interstate. Now, $12,000 that you’re talking about now–you’ve got to acknowledge that’s barely a drop in the ocean for these families.

Michael McCormack: Yes, but it's ongoing support. Many of them are already receiving some assistance and that’s why I urge and encourage farmers not to self assess, because there are many, many farmers eligible for assistance who have as yet not applied for this assistance.

So, if there are farmers out there listening and watching this make sure you seek the help that is available.

Hamish Macdonald: But specifically on this amount, Deputy PM, for families on the brink of losing their farms, $12,000 won’t make a difference, will it?

Michael McCormack: Well, it will make a significant difference to many of them. It will make a significant difference.

It’s $12,000 they didn’t have. It’s $12,000 that they can spend on groceries, school fees, whatever.

We’re not telling them what to spend the money on but we are there providing assistance for them. There is a national effort to help these farmers and the government is also standing by their side.

Hamish Macdonald: Obviously this money deals with some of the symptoms of this crisis and not the cause. When is there going to be a government long-term policy for handling drought and also the impacts of climate change?

Michael McCormack: There already is help available and certainly we'll be having discussions about how we can future drought-proof farms and regional communities even more.

But there’s also an onus on making sure that we don’t tell farmers what they can grow and how much they can grow and where they can sell to and where they can farm. I mean, that’s the Labor way.

We want to make sure as a Coalition Government that we’re in there side-by-side helping and supporting them but making, ultimately, the decisions up to the farmers themselves.

Hamish Macdonald: Deputy Prime Minister, thanks for joining us.

Michael McCormack: Thank you very much.