Queensland LNP Senator Barry O’Sullivan says while today’s announcement to extend the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) will be strongly welcomed across rural areas, further support measures from government would be needed to ensure ravaged western communities can survive and rebuild from one of the worst droughts in Australian history.
Senator O’Sullivan said Minister Littleproud’s announcement to extend the FHA from three to four years would ensure thousands of Australian farmers had the certainty of a financial safety net for the next 12 months.
However, Senator O’Sullivan said government attention would now need to shift towards initiatives that provided cash-flow for entire rural communities gripped by drought.
“I wrote to the Prime Minister in March and was soon joined by a dozen Western Queensland Mayors calling for increased drought support for our rural communities,” Senator O’Sullivan said.
“Many of our western communities are struggling economically, environmentally and socially under the pressure of six failed wet seasons.
“The effects of this drought reach from the farm gate into every corner of these communities. Every single person is impacted – from the mechanic to the council worker to the grocery store manager.
“There is no money flowing in some of these communities and they have all been struggling for years to put food on their family table and plan a stable future for their children.
“School enrolment has plummeted as families have been forced to leave towns.
“Thousands of jobs have been lost across Central Western Queensland and well over half of all business owners are paying themselves no wages at all.”
Senator O’Sullivan said the Prime Minister had earned significant support and respect from the people of Western Queensland during his recent listening tour through drought-gripped regions.
He said ‘whole of community’ action was required to ensure townspeople as well as farmers could survive and recover from this prolonged drought.
“Government can’t make it rain, but it can deliver a steady stream of new initiatives that will allow money to flow through these communities again – and I plan to continue pushing for more action from my government,” he said.