The government has rejected Labor’s claims its drought package isn’t working and calls to go back to the drawing board.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce has rejected claims federal drought assistance is not reaching afflicted farmers.
Only 28 – 15 in Queensland and 13 in NSW – apparently have been able to access cheap finance the government announced as part of its drought package in February.
That’s unlocked only $17 million of the total $280 million concessional loans scheme designed to assist debt-laden farmers hit by a protracted period of drought.
Mr Joyce said more than 3000 drought-hit farmers were receiving welfare assistance – a separate part of the federal package.
As well, there had been 89 drought applications for cheap loans received, with many more to come.
“I am confident that the concessional loans will be fully utilised,” he told AAP on Thursday.
The National Farmers Federation said it’s understandable a small number of applicants have accessed the scheme so far given it has only been operating for two months.
It’s estimated only 17 loan applications totalling $11.5 million have been approved in Queensland alone.
But the federation is concerned the application process is too onerous and acting as a disincentive to some farmers.
It is urging the government to explore ways to help producers with their applications.
Labor says the government should acknowledge the scheme isn’t working and simply start from scratch.
“Barnaby Joyce is delusional if he thinks his drought package is working. No one believes that,” opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said.