THE Deputy Prime Minister will visit the Tamworth area next week to open the first in a series of locally organised drought forums.
And it’s hoped what he sees and hears here will help inform any changes or increases to federal drought assistance.
Michael McCormack will attend Attunga’s Navigating the Drought forum on Tuesday morning, organised by the R U Aware We Care group.
They are being held for anyone who might be affected by the drought, including farmers, small business owners and employees.
Russell Webb of Tamworth Regional Council, one of the groups behind R U Aware We Care, said he’d spoken to Mr McCormack and NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair about “having a part in these forums”.
“Michael McCormack has opted to come up and support them in person and open the first one,” Cr Webb said.
“We know that there has been a visit to the bush by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, but we would hope that by coming to the forum he will get to meet farmers and hear stories from a whole range of different industry groups all in the rural community ...
“The federal government have a drought package already, but I imagine they will now add to that package.
“I think coming to a place like Attunga will add value to his visit and he will be able to reflect that, hopefully, in any further announcement on any further drought aid.”
Cr Webb said he was not aware of any imminent news on that front.
“We haven’t really got into that yet, but we will talk about that on Tuesday.”
Mr McCormack said he commended everyone involved in supporting farming families and their communities during “this extremely tough time”.
“The R U Aware We Care initiative is a great example of local communities rallying around to support those in need,” Mr McCormack said.
“There’s nothing more Australian than helping a mate in need and whether you’re in Charleville, the Mallee in Victoria, Narrabri, Bathurst, Hay or Attunga, it’s great to see so many people and organisations out on the ground and elsewhere doing what they can to support our farmers and farming communities at this difficult time.”
Mr McCormack said it was his and other elected representatives’ “duty to look at how we can provide any additional assistance measures”.
He pointed to the federal government’s recent improvements to the Farm Household Allowance scheme and extra funding for mental health services and Rural Financial Counselling Service, and the state government’s recent $500 million drought relief package, as some of the help already provided.
“I’d also like to reiterate that the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has estimated there may be 19,000 farmers eligible for Farm Household Allowance who have not yet applied for it, so I’d encourage everyone to use Centrelink’s expertise to determine if they are in fact eligible for support payments, rather than relying on self-assessment.”
The forums: when, where
The Navigating the Drought forums will be held from 10am to 3pm at:
- Attunga hall, August 7;
- Narrabri RSL, August 8;
- Moree RSL, August 9;
- Inverell RSM, August 14
- Glen Innes Services Club, August 15.