Remarks with The Hon Barnaby Joyce MP, Federal Member for New England Drought forum, Attunga, NSW

Michael McCormack: Russell put the call out to me and said look what can we do further to help these drought-stricken farmers—and not just farmers, it’s not just about farmers; it’s also about small businesses, it’s also about families, it’s also about entire communities. This goes way beyond the farm gate.

And Russell said can we get some of the government agencies to make the State and Federal, to turn up to a public hall meeting and get some of the people who are really doing it tough to stand there, sit there, face to face, one on one, privately if need be and that’s why—with the help of Russell, with the help of Barnaby—and he knows all too well the effects of the drought too.

We’ve been in close contact and Barnaby just told me on the way out here, sadly this area is really at the epicentre of the drought. I appreciate that in some areas in north-west, Northern New South Wales, three of the last four years have not been good at all. In some parts of South Western Queensland that’s now seven long years.

Now, we’ve got the 22 representatives today from such organisations as Centrelink, the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise and Ombudsman’s office, Social Services. We’ve got state departments here as well.

Please take the opportunity to talk to these people, they are here to help you. From the government they’re here to help you: I know that sounds like some well-worn phrase but we want to help you, we want to partner with you.

We’ve made an announcement at Trangie on Sunday, to see what we can do as far as a federal government, backing on top of what we previously done back in June after we went on a drought tour starting at Ashlea and Phillip Miles’ ‘Strathmore’ property at Trangie.

And that backed up with what the state government is doing. They’re putting in place fodder subsidy, transport allowances and all the rest.

We can’t make it rain but we can be there with help and support and assistance. And I would urge and encourage you to make use of that assistance today. I would also urge and encourage you on your social media networks, when you’re talking to your friends, when you’re talking to other families in other areas, make sure you tell them too: Don’t self-assess. Don’t self-assess.

Take advantage of the rural financial counsellors. They can sit around your kitchen table, or they can talk to you today. They can sit around your kitchen table and talk through these issues. We’ve got people from Health today, they’re there if you are feeling the strain and it’s getting too much, it’s getting on top of you, please reach out.

We’ve also got people here from the Country Women’s Association, what a fabulous organisation that is. The Salvos, I met Di on the way in. From FM 88.9, now George thank you for your efforts, thank you for your efforts to help coordinate this.

Again I say, this is about you. Please take advantage of the assistance that’s available. Thank you Barnaby for making me well aware of the need to come here to Attunga.

This is the first of the five little gatherings such as this; hopefully they’ll by the time they get to Glen Innes they’ll be big gatherings. So, please tell your friends: if they’re in trouble, ask them are they okay, reach out.

In the worst of times we see the best of Australians and so many Australians have come forward with offers of assistance, from Western Australia, from Tasmania, right around this great nation.

We’ll get through this because our farmers are the very best in the world. Our regional communities are the heartbeat of our nation. And we will get through this.

And again, I urge and stress on you: don’t self-assess. Please take advantage of all the services and agencies here today. 

May it rain very, very soon. And the prayers and thoughts are with you all. Thank you very much.


Barnaby Joyce: Well thank you very much Russell and to Michael, I really appreciate you making the effort to come out here today. To George, all the work that you’ve done. Most importantly all the people around the wall: I know really what happens in some of these areas, where people come here to the offices—in their office and one of the key things is there is programs to help. The people just not getting access to them and I understand that, I was an accountant—I was an accountant for 10 to 15 years and so many times people just get frustrated and they’ll bring the paperwork in to myself and my staff to fill out.

We come up with these programs to help you. And don’t feel guilty about it. I know how cockies think. They believe that they’re the deliverers and if they reach out, they believe that they’re leaning on the public purse and they step back and they say: no, I don’t want to have part of it. On mental issues, people say, “oh well, I can tough this out, it’s not too bad, everything’s okay.”

I tell you what—you are helping nobody if you don’t get help. You are helping nobody if you don’t get help. Because you let everybody down if something goes wrong. So, you think you need help, get it. And the best thing, there’s a chance of a better financial assistance, take it. Take it.

Remember, in the mornings in Sydney—every morning. You know what they pay—those you know those train tickets that people buy? That only covers 30 per cent of the cost to run the train, only about 30 per cent. The rest the taxpayer picks up. Why? Because we believe it’s a public good for people to use public transport instead of driving their cars.

I’ll tell you another public good: keeping farmers, farming families, Australian farming families on the land. That is a public good and we need to make sure that after the drought—and the drought will finish—that you’re still there. Because if you’re not there, the money ain’t there. And if the money ain’t there, then the hairdresser’s not going to be there, then the tyre business is not going to be there, then the town is not going to be there.

So, this is not saying we’re going to help you forever. This is saying, “OK, we’re in a tough time.” Michael and the Cabinet have provided assistance and it’s there to make sure that you’re there not just for yourselves, but that you’re there for a Attunga, you’re there for Tamworth, you’re there for New England, you’re there for Australia. That you make our nation a stronger place for the long run. 

And believe you me, I know how the government works, whatever you get now, we’re going to get it back off you later on. Don’t worry about it.


All the best and God bless.