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Published: Thu, August 09, 2018
Research | By Jennifer Evans

How drought relief actually ends up punishing Australian farmers

How drought relief actually ends up punishing Australian farmers

Ninety-nine percent of New South Wales alone is in drought as it faces one of its driest winters, with the state government rolling out a major emergency aid package late last month for its farmers.

But the $190 million in immediate drought relief measures announced by the prime minister on Sunday is too little too late.

Dry farmland across eastern Australia is not predicted to get soaking rains through spring or summer.

The government believes as many as 19,000 farming families are eligible for the FHA but have not applied for it.

"A lot of people don't want to go into town, they don't have the time to go into town, they're shy about doing so, and so they have three tele-health consultations and don't have the fourth then drop out".

"The Farm Household Allowance has helped nearly 8000 of Australia's approximately 80,000 farmers over the past four years, as we've invested $230 million", Minister Littleproud said.

"We, as a government, are right there by their side, right behind them, and supporting them all the way". "When farmers do it well the whole nation benefits, when farmers do it tough, as they are now the whole nation suffers", he said during the press conference.

The extra funding for the Rural Financial Counselling Service was also very welcome, Mr Maudsley said, and AgForce urged farmers to use the service and seek advice on how to apply for the Farm Household Allowance.

He described the situation of some farmers as "shocking", "diabolical" and "tragic". So they are already resilient.

And look at the kinds of academic research we fund: $468,000 for the Australian National University to "investigate warfare in the ancient Tongan state through a study of earthwork fortifications" and $340,000 for the University of Wollongong to study how "socially engaged art" can "catalyse new dialogue between farmers, scientists, environmentalists and policy makers" on the Great Barrier Reef. They live in this climate. "And our job is to make sure we support them and enable their resilience".

Compare the complex process of accessing such funding with how easily the government throws money at any other number of fashionable causes and you understand the frustration.

The NSW Farmers' Association and Queensland's AgForce both welcomed the federal government's announcement.

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