THE BIG DRY: Prime Minister visits Trangie for a second time to make drought announcement

The Federal Government has announced a much needed drought-relief package with a promise of more to come but, while farmers said they were thankful for the assistance, they still need more to be done.

Strathmore farmers Ashlea and Philip Miles hosted the Prime Minister at their Trangie property for the second time since June and said they welcomed the drought-relief package. 

“I think the first visit we had a great foundation to work on, I think this has added to that. I don’t think we’re finished,” Mrs Miles said. 

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud and Member for Parkes Mark Coulton to announce the drought-relief.

The $190 million package includes an extension of the Farm Household Allowance (FHA) of up to $12,000 in two lump sum payments and a relaxing of FHA assets tests to allow more farmers access to the assistance.   

There will also be five million dollars dedicated to the Rural Financial counselling services, $15 million to help the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal and $11.4 million in mental health support initiatives. 

“Farmers, you’re an inspiration, you and thousands of other farmers around Australia are showing the resilience, that makes all Australia proud of you. You put the food on our tables, the fibre on our backs, and we have your back, we’re supporting you,” Mr Turnbull said.  

“We are the land of droughts and flooding rains. It’s a volatile and capricious climate. Australian farmers are resilient, they’re prepare for drought, but it can become overwhelming.”

Drought-awareness campaigner Edwina Robertson voiced the concerns of farmers in an emotional statement during the visit. 

“Everyone is sick of being told that farmers need to be resilient. How resilient do people have to be to get through the financial and emotional toll, to get through this not for a couple of months but for years,” she said. 

Mrs Miles said there is continued talk about long-term sustainability. 

“If it rains, we’ll all forget about this, and we shouldn’t, we’ve got this coming again,” Mrs Miles said.

“Whether its my kids, me again, I don’t know, we’re such an invariable climate, we need to think of a long-term situation where we can sustain and cement agriculture.

“I feel that if we keep adding to our toolbox, we might eventually get to a point where we will have a great structure to work within.”

Mrs Miles said more could be done in terms response and preparation for climate change and the effect this has on farming. 

“We’re some of the best farmers in the world, in Australia, we get by with very little funding and government support, we don’t get a lot of hand-outs, we’re in a dry continent, we do a good job but its going to get more variable, and things are going to need to happen so we can sustain ourselves. 

“We should recognise they didn’t have to come back out. I think it’s really good they did come back out. They did it again. We had some really frank conversations in there. We’re looking at the next level as well. We’re looking to the next lot of plans that are going to come out as well. We’re not finished. We’re just going to have to keep working,” she said. 

The government said more drought support would be announced in the coming weeks.