A drop in the ocean

The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien says he is extremely disappointed by today’s drought support announcement from the Andrews Labor Government.

Mr O’Brien said local farmers, The Nationals, the Victorian Farmers Federation and most commentators had been united for some time in the need for municipal rate relief and the government’s announcements today were a failure.

“Grants of up to $3,500 are simply a drop in the ocean for most of the farmers that are struggling,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Just this morning I have spoken to farmers that will feed that amount of money out just to keep their stock alive every couple of days.

“I also met farmers who had $20,000-40,000 shire rate bills so these grants will barely touch the sides.”

Mr O’Brien welcomed Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh to the region today, where they met with farmers near Seaspray.  Mr Walsh has been leading the charge for rate relief across the state.

“The beauty of providing a subsidy to shire rates is that it’s fair and equitable across all farmers and is a simple and straight forward way to provide genuine support.

“Many of our farmers in the Wellington Shire are now into their third year of record low rainfall and there is only so much resilience.

“While I’m pleased that the Agriculture Minister did visit the area today, she needs to come back as soon as possible with a much more significant announcement.

“It’s also incumbent on the Premier to visit the area given that he has been to the Latrobe Valley five times since the government declared drought in east and central Gippsland, but has never made it past Traralgon to the worst affected areas.

“As the leader of the government in this state it is appalling that he has been apparently too busy to come and visit and see these conditions first-hand for himself.”

Mr O’Brien said there was precedent for the sort of support he is seeking for local farmers.

“Even Labor Premier John Brumby has done better than this government. In 2008 and 2009 he provided a 50 per cent and 30 per cent rate subsidy respectively, so there is absolutely no excuse for this government not to be improving its offer of support.”

Mr O’Brien said the government was already wasting money on drought assistance with hundreds of non-farm families throughout the Wellington and East Gippsland Shires receiving grants for children at school.

“While there’s an argument that some of this money will flow into the local business community, and that is good, it’s not getting to the people who need it most and would be better spent on supporting the farmers who are in dire need.”

190222_Peter_Walsh_and_Danny_OBrien_Drought.jpg

Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Peter Walsh with The Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, at a drought ravaged property near Seaspray on Friday.

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