The man responsible for co-ordinating the national effort to help Australian farmers affected by the country’s devastating drought has confessed he “doesn’t know” where the $50 million in donations will be going.
Drought co-ordinator Major General Stephen Day failed to account for the whereabouts of the huge sum of money raised, and said he was unaware of how many farmers have actually been affected by what has been one of the worst droughts in Australian history, or where they are.
Speaking to Alan Jones on 2GB on Thursday, Day said: “I think that is one of the key problems that we face across the country, there is a lack of fidelity of information on the ground level to advise government at all levels on what they should be doing.”
Jones then asked the Major General what types of farms had been worst affected and what their individual needs are, however, Day dodged the question and said the government has “a pretty good handle on the number of regions that are in drought”.
The radio presenter then asked his guest: “If we don’t specifically know how many farms are drought affected? And if we don’t know where the are, how the hell do we provide them with the kind of support they need?
“I’ve been asking these questions now for three months. I just don’t understand, what are we coordinating here?”
Day went on to say the whole experience has been “very emotional,” citing trips to visit farmers in the likes of Tamworth and Gunnedah, but admitted that he does not know where the money, which has been raised by a number of different charities, will be going.
“It’s not my money,” he added. “You make a good point, I don’t know how many charities there are.”
Farms in New South Wales have been hit the hardest by the drought, following the driest September on record, with 100 per cent of the state drought-declared and almost one fifth in ‘severe drought’.
Day said according to the most recent information he had access to, $50 million had been raised across the country, however only $30 million had gone to farmers. He then credited the Country Women’s Association and National Farmers Federation for raising those funds that had been distributed.
Jones grilled Major General Day on why farmers were being forced through bureaucratic hoops in order to access the money, with forms that had 197 questions in order to gain access to programs that could help cover costs.