Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has on Sunday revealed a new package to help struggling farmers in Australia. The PM returned to a farm in Trangie in central New South Wales where he announced a $190 million new package to help farmers and their families who are doing it tough.
Turnbull explained the thousands of farmers across Australia are an inspiration for showing the resilience that makes all Aussies proud.
“You put the food on our tables, the fibre that goes on our backs and we have your back. We’re supporting you,” he promised.
While he acknowledged many farmers around the country are great planners and managers, Turnbull said the current situation had become overwhelming, noting the current drought is the worst in New South Wales since 1965. He explained that he went to the worst effected farms in June and stayed in close and constant touch with rural and regional communities to make changes.
“We’re going to increase the Farm Household allowance by $7,200 for singles and $12,000 for couples, that’s to say $6,000 for each partner in a couple,” he said. “What that will do is provide additional cash in this coming year, because it appears we’re going into a dry Spring. It could be a dry Spring and a tough Summer.”
These funds are in addition to the $16,000 a year farmers can claim.
He also announced the asset test was increasing to $5 million from the current $2,6 million, noting that farmers are sitting on assets which in the drought, can’t generate income. Mental health was also another big talking point for Turnbull and his package.
The 63-year-old described it as a big problem in the bush, with many finding it difficult to cope.
“We need to remove the stigma and taboo about talking about mental health,” he said. “An important development has been putting on the Medicare schedule the availability of telehealth consultations for psychological support.”
In addition, there would be more funding for mental health services in regional Australia including the Rural Financial Counselling Service. He said the drought was evolving, but promised the government was listening, understood the challenges and would continue to support them.
It comes after a number of farmers have shared heartbreaking images and stories of what the drought is doing to their homes and livelihood. Last month, Laura Jones appeared on 2GB radio where she shared how dire the situation had become.
“To have little or no rain in all of these years is devastating, [we’re] basically almost on the brink of shooting our stock and walking away,” the mother told host Chris Smith. “It’s barren, it looks like the middle of the desert in the Northern Territory, red soil, sometimes black soil, nothings growing, not even a blade of grass.”
She said the family were forced to reduce shower times and feared they would have to shoot and kill livestock if the situation got worse.
“Every farm that is in the district is in the same position, my family and I are no different to our next door neighbours, all facing the same outcome, we’ve got very little to go on, no money to fall back on,” Laura added.