NEW England federal MP Barnaby Joyce has urged drought-stricken farmers to take advantage of the Abbott government’s $320 million relief package.
Speaking in Tamworth on Thursday, the Minister for Agriculture said it was crucial farmers do not “self-assess” and rule themselves out prematurely.
“It’s absolutely, fundamentally important that we maintain the dignity of people’s lives and I know one of the big traps after a good shower of rain (is that) everybody thinks the problem’s solved,” Mr Joyce said.
“But until the cattle are fat, until the crop is ripe and harvested, until the money is in the bank, your financial problems remain the same as they were.
“Make sure the people we pay ... the advisory bodies ... that you utilise them to determine whether you have access.”
The landmark package, which was announced on February 26, includes fortnightly income support under the Interim Farm Household Allowance, $280 million worth of drought concessional loans, $10.7 million to boost mental health support, $12 million towards emergency water infrastructure schemes and $10 million for pest management.
About 650 applications have been approved so far and about 60 rejected, Mr Joyce said. “This has got extremely liberal criteria, a $2.55 million net asset test, excluding the primary domicile – the house,” Mr Joyce said.
“So make sure that you give yourself the best chance to get your lives back together again, to get some money coming back onto the table.
“It is extremely important that people realise that the capacity to take some of that financial pressure off themselves by getting a lower rate of interest or getting the bank to sharpen their pencils so they match the rates, is there, and please utilise it.”
The Nationals MP and ex- accountant also encouraged farmers struggling mentally to seek help.
“There are people who have financially come unstuck once and later go on to be an incredible success,” Mr Joyce said.
“Don’t think that one event determines who you are or where your future lies.
“As long as you can roll your swag and walk down the road, there are possibilities.”