My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Ms Symes. It follows a Weekly Times article of 23 October about enormous variations in the amounts of drought assistance provided by the Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian governments respectively. That article suggested New South Wales provides up to $90,000 per farmer, and Queensland up to $50,000, but Victoria up to only just over $8,000. The report also quoted the VFF President, *David Jochinke, as saying these variations in farmer support were frustrating and causing angst. Minister: especially in the midst of the current crippling drought, do you accept that more needs to be done by the Victorian Government, especially through the provision of greater financial relief and assistance to farmers and local councils?
Minister: I refer to your 2 October announcement of specific assistance to three local councils to (quote) “help respond to drought-related issues”.
I do so particularly after last week’s revelations that Moira Shire doesn’t qualify for a Federal drought assistance grant because it is apparently 0.1% short of the required number on the so-called ‘agricultural employment participation rate’. I also do so after your 22 October reaction to those revelations, when you tweeted Moira Shire should indeed be given more drought assistance funds. Isn’t it the case, Minister, that you also have the power to give Moira Shire more drought assistance money, just like you did recently for those three other councils – and will you therefore do this?