Prime Minister Tony Abbott has unveiled a $320m drought assistance package for struggling farmers.
Drought-stricken farmers in parts of NSW and Queensland are set to receive a $320 million lifeline from the federal government.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has unveiled an assistance package which includes increasing access to a concessional loan scheme, income support, funding for pest control and mental health support.
Income support measures will be brought forward from July 1 to March 3.
Drought concessional loans totalling $280 million will be allocated to give eligible farm businesses the resources to recover from the effects of drought.
Up to $12 million will be added to existing emergency water infrastructure schemes, including supplementing those in NSW and Queensland.
Another $10 million in assistance will be available for pest management in drought-affected areas, and $10.7 million will help increase access to social and mental health services.
Mr Abbott said the package was refined by the government after his recent tour of western NSW and Queensland.
“The package is largely building on existing programs but it is making it more responsive to the particular needs of farmers hit by drought,” he told reporters.
It was not a “special deal” for farmers, nor was it a super-favourable social security regime.
“A farmer in trouble is in a very difficult situation and a rather different situation to most of us when we are in trouble.
“If your farm is in dire drought, you can’t sell, you can’t borrow, you can’t live but you’ve got no money.”
That was why it was right and proper that farmers should have access to income support under slightly different arrangements to those that apply to other people, Mr Abbott said.
“The Australian public get that.”