Agricultural Minister Niall Blair was in Tamworth on Friday, meeting with Kevin Anderson and three “local farmers” to discuss drought relief options including freight subsidies, although once again the Party is “looking at all options,” and would not confirm any impending announcements.
Mr Blair and the Nationals have come under fire for a perceived lack of action, and while Mr Anderson said freight subsidies “definitely weren’t off the table”, he also said Mr Blair left “with a very loud and clear message about what is needed.”
“They are back at the table, they are reviewing what is on offer, they are looking at different measures, they are looking at absolutely every opportunity to provide support and assistance,” Mr Anderson said.
“We need to think outside of the square and bring on measures that we have never had before.”
One of the only concrete ideas that seemed to come out of the meeting was the proposal “to create a central location point for bringing fodder and grain out of Western Australia via train.”
One proposed site was Parkes, from where producers could access grain and fodder with reduced transport costs.
Other ideas included suspending Local Land Service rates, charges and fees, as well as water license fees.
Interestingly local media were not made aware of the Agricultural Minister’s visit “to town to talk to local farmers” until after he left.
Two of the three “local farmers” were the two highest ranking National Party members in the region outside of Barnaby Joyce and Mr Anderson - long time outspoken member Russell Webb, and Tamworth Nationals branch chair Ian Coxhead.
Disgruntled NSW Farmers chair and Loomberah grazier Kevin Tongue made up the cross-section, and according to reports certainly made his mark on the minister.
“It was pretty robust, pretty robust. No one held back, but it was very constructive. Our feelings were absolutely made known to him (Mr Blair), and he took that on board,” Mr Anderson said.
“More has to be done, and I look forward to seeing what comes out of the next round of offer and assistance.”
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