Our pastoralists across the Goldfields and Southern Rangelands are currently experiencing some of their toughest seasons on record.
Until recently those farmers have not put up too much of a fuss about their worsening predigament as they have acknowledged the severe conditions over east.
But now the situation for some is becoming just as dire and they will not, nor should not, remain quiet any longer.
Most of the stations in these regions rely on surface water
catchment for stock water as the groundwater is highly saline.
I visited Virginia Station between Balladonia and Caiguna last week and owner Russell Swann and son Keith were good enough to show me around.
They explained how they were carting water up to 300km to
keep the last 250 breeders going until they could be trucked to agistment on
the west coast.
I was glad to be able to explain the suite of measures the government announced to help farmers like the Swann’s survive until the rains arrive again.
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.
New and existing drought loans for farmers will be interest free for two years so they can 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.
Farmers will not have to pay a cent for the next two years and we’ll keep assessing the program if the drought runs longer than that to ensure repayments are affordable.
We also acknowledge it’s not only farmers doing it tough in drought, but the many of the struggling businesses in those areas.
We’ve set up 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.
Since the budget we have already committed an additional $355 million to step up our drought response.
Last week’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.
This is money into the pockets of all those farmers and graziers who know they have a future, but are currently struggling to keep their operations running as the crippling effects of this drought continue to bite that we’ve heard from out on the ground.
We’ve also simplified and expanded access to the Farm Household Allowance and extended it to a 4 in 10 year payment.
Households are eligible for around $105,000 as well as an additional payment of $13,000 for couples.
This is to ensure these families can keep a roof over their head and food on the table while times are tough.
I recently invited Drought Minister David Littleproud to visit my electorate to see first-hand the crippling effects of the drought in WA.
I’m thrilled he has now agreed to visit next week and I look forward to spending time with him while he is here next week.