Labor calls for more drought support in regional South Australia

DROUGHT: Farmers across Australia have been struggling through record dry conditions this year.
DROUGHT: Farmers across Australia have been struggling through record dry conditions this year.

Shadow Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Eddie Hughes has criticised state government for not doing enough to support drought-affected farmers.

Mr Hughes’ comments come after Labor outlined plans to boost mental health support for farmers and farming communities experiencing drought conditions.

“If the Marshall Liberal government is going to refuse to supply South Australian farmers in drought-affected areas with direct financial support, then they must immediately increase the number of counsellors in the regions,” Mr Hughes said.

“Actions speak louder than words, and both the federal and state Liberal Governments need to announce more support for South Australian farmers, who are increasingly becoming desperate for help.”

However, Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone refuted claims that he is offering no direct financial support for farmers.

“Upon invitation, National Drought Coordinator Major General Stephen Day recently visited South Australia to meet with industry and council representatives in drought affected regions to discuss a number of topics including further details around the $75 million Drought Communities Program,” Mr Whetstone said.

“In addition to extending the Rural Financial Counselling Service in the recent State Budget, the state government is implementing additional measures such as Family and Business Support Scouts, a fodder register, a fodder audit and a 24 hour assistance hotline.”

Mr Whetstone revealed the Farm Household Allowance is “under-subscribed” in SA, urging farmers to review the options available.

Labor called on the Marshall Liberal government to hire four farmgate counsellors and frontline mental health workers to assist during the drought.

State government recently appointed up to eight Family and Business (FaB) scouts, who will be based in or near the state’s most affected regions.

These regions include the Far North, upper Eyre Peninsula, Murray-Mallee and the pastoral district.

“The FaB Scouts will provide on-going support for those who need it. Just having someone care enough to walk down the driveway and see how things are going, and then be able to provide an experienced, confidential and independent ear and counsel can make the world of difference,” Mr Whetstone said.