PM tight-lipped on drought aid

Turnbull's drought listening tour continues at Blackall


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Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, flanked by two Queensland Ministers, David Littleproud and John McVeigh, continuing the federal government's drought listening tour at the Blackall Woolscour.

Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, flanked by two Queensland Ministers, David Littleproud and John McVeigh, continuing the federal government's drought listening tour at the Blackall Woolscour.

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The large areas of Queensland feeling the extended anguish of drought are going to have to wait a little longer to hear how the federal government plans to help them through their ongoing financial pain.

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The large areas of Queensland feeling the extended anguish of drought are going to have to wait a little longer to hear how the federal government plans to help them through their ongoing financial pain.

Speaking from the historic Blackall Woolscour on Tuesday morning, the Prime Minister shied away from giving any hint on what forms of assistance it might be considering.

“In our line of work, you can never listen too much,” he said.

“A lot of the measures that have been undertaken, people had differing views about.

“For example, the dog fences. An old-timer told me he wasn't a great fan but he's recently seen great success.”

In 2015, in response to a similar urgent call for drought assistance from western Queensland, the federal government made $10m available for cluster fencing programs.

The region’s federal MP, David Littleproud, also the Agriculture Minister, added that it was important that the government understand that while something may have worked well in Queensland, which has been feeling the effect of drought the longest, it could be improved on as other parts of the country began feeling the effects of drought.

“This is an evolving situation and to sit in Canberra and be advised by people is not a healthy thing,” he said.

As well as mingling with the public at morning tea, he held a private meeting with mayors from Blackall-Tambo, Barcaldine, Longreach and Barcoo councils, who were primed with suggestions for assistance.

Mr Turnbull said he would have more to say on extending Farm Household Allowance, commenting that feedback from people on the trip indicated that terminating it after three years had been too soon, given the longevity of the drought.

“There's also been a common concern, this applies to state programs as well, that the process of paperwork of applying for grants or concessional loans is too arduous,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We've got to make it easier for people to get assistance.

“It's the age of the internet and the smartphone – there's no reason it can't be very straightforward.

“We're not making too many announcements on this trip. The main thing is to listen and get all the feedback.”

He complimented the 100 people gathered for morning tea at the Woolscour on their resilience and determination, describing it as “legendary”.

“You are the very heart and soul of Australia and you're dealing with a tough and volatile and often unpredictable climate,” he said. “Your enterprise and your courage is what makes it all work.”

Regional Development Minister, John McVeigh, pointed to the cookhouse extension at the Woolscour that hosted the morning meeting as the way in which the federal government could get behind local communities in tough times.

Blackall-Tambo Regional Council mayor, Andrew Martin, second left, introduces Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Regional Development Minister, John McVeigh to the people gathered at the Blackall Woolscour, and inviting the Prime Minister to open extensions to the heritage complex.

Blackall-Tambo Regional Council mayor, Andrew Martin, second left, introduces Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud, Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, and Regional Development Minister, John McVeigh to the people gathered at the Blackall Woolscour, and inviting the Prime Minister to open extensions to the heritage complex.

The project was funded with money from the Drought Communities Program, another of the assistance measures put forward by the federal government in 2015.

Mr Turnbull was invited to open the extension for the 110-year-old cookhouse that’s part of the only working steam-powered woolscour left in the world, and which has become one of Blackall’s main tourist attractions.

The story PM tight-lipped on drought aid first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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