Prime Minister Scott Morrison says “drought-hit farmers, small businesses and rural towns are set for an immediate cash injection to keep stock fed and watered, keep businesses open, keep locals in work and pump funds into local economies”, after releasing Canberra’s latest set of support measures today, Thursday 7 November.
In a statement released earlier today the PM said the Coalition Government’s “next step of measures to combat the drought’s impact was ready to flow”.
“We are stepping up our drought response once again to meet the increasing needs as the drought’s effects also step up,” Mr Morrison said.
“Since the budget we have already committed an additional $355 million to step up our drought response.
“Today’s announcement triples this to more than $1 billion since the election, as well as more than $1 billion in new interest free loans, to see people through.
“They are backing themselves and we are backing them to make it through to the better days that will be ahead.
“It’s not only farmers doing it tough in drought.
“Our next step in drought support also has an eye squarely on those communities feeling the strain as work dries up and spending in local stores slows down.
“There is no silver bullet to this drought.
“Each time we introduce further help we listen, we learn and we adjust our response because we know each community has different needs and priorities that need the resources and cooperation of every level of government.”
Comment is being sought from the Southern Downs Regional Council as to their reaction about what the announcements mean for this region.
New drought support key points (from the PM’s media release today)…
• Making new and existing drought loans for farmers interest free for two years so they purchase fodder, pay for freight and pay their farm hands. Years three to five will be interest only payment and years six to 10 will be interest and principal. Current scheme is the first five years are interest only payments, and interest and principal payments for the balance of the loan term
• A new program for small businesses dependent on agriculture with loans worth up to $500,000 that can be used to pay staff, buy equipment and refinance. It follows the same new payment scheme as the Drought Loans for farmers
• $10 million to support schools facing financial hardship as a result of ongoing drought conditions, including fee concessions for boarding students
• $5 million from the Community Child Care Fund will help assist centres that are experiencing decreased demand and financial pressure due to families from drought-affected areas being unable to pay for child care
• An additional $1 million for each of the 122 drought-affected councils and shires if they need it
• $1 million each for new drought-affected councils and shires including Greater Hume, Hilltops, Lockhart and Upper Lachlan in NSW, and Kangaroo Island and Tatiara in SA
• $50 million discretionary fund to support projects in Local Government Areas impacted by the drought
• Redirecting $200 million into a Building Better Regions Fund drought round to support new projects that deliver social and economic benefits to drought-affected communities
• $138.9 million additional Roads to Recovery funding in calendar year 2020 for the 128 Local Government Areas eligible for the Drought Communities Programme Extension
• 100 gigalitres of water that will be used to grow up to 120,000 tonnes of fodder as well as silage and pasture to secure supplies for the months ahead.