Michael McCormack at Attunga drought forum

FORUM TALK: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack at the drought forum in Attunga hall this morning. Photo: Peter Hardin 070818PHA129
FORUM TALK: Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack at the drought forum in Attunga hall this morning. Photo: Peter Hardin 070818PHA129

The Deputy PM and federal Nationals leader said a series of forums that began in Attunga today showed the party’s “care and support and love” for drought-affected people and places.

But Michael McCormack wouldn’t be drawn on what further federal drought assistance was being discussed – although acknowledging that even if the drought broke today, it would be “an issue ... years into the future”.

Mr McCormack, on a day-trip for the first of the Navigating the Drought forums, said he urged people to seek help at their nearest event.

“It’s not just about farmers: it’s also about small businesses, it’s also about families, it’s also about entire communities. This goes way beyond the farm gate.”

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The Leader asked Mr McCormack whether the Nationals were truly able to advocate for their drought-stricken electorates while being, as one federal Nationals MP previously put it, “shackled” to the Liberals.

He pointed to his attendance at the event and that of state MP Kevin Anderson and federal MP Barnaby Joyce.

“You’ve seen this community forum today, set up by National Party members … when our farmers bleed, National Party members bleed, too,” he said.

‘Above politics’

“We’ve all got a stake in this: we very much feel the full effects of a drought, as do regional Liberals.

“This isn’t just political; this has gotta be above politics… This is a drought that hasn’t been felt in living memory since 1965.”

Mr McCormack said he didn’t want to “pre-empt anything that we may or many not do” in future federal aid.

Asked about possible help for small rural and regional businesses feeling the pinch, he referred to the $12,000 lump-sum payments announced on Sunday for Farm Household Allowance recipients.

“They’ll spend that in their local communities, in most cases, and that’ll help the small businesses in the communities – because they, too, they feel the brunt of this,” he said.

“And we’ll be discussing what else we can do, as far as the drought is concerned.”

History repeating?

Mr McCormack said that, on the plane between Sydney and Tamworth this morning, a farmer had shared a story with him.

“In 1965, the drought broke on August 19 and it rained for six weeks,” he said.

“Fingers crossed; August 19 is not far away.

“Let’s just hope and pray that history repeats itself.”

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