PM’s $100m mercy dash from US to Queensland

 

DROUGHT-despondent farmers will be given a boosted financial lifeline today after Scott Morrison makes a mercy dash from the US to Queensland.

Declaring helping battling farmers his "most urgent priority", the Prime Minister will extend financial help to a further 13 local government areas across Australia - including three in Queensland - under a $100 million package in practical support.

Straight from his whirlwind back-to-back meetings in the US, Mr Morrison is due to land in Sydney this morning before immediately changing planes to head straight to Dalby, one of many outback towns trying to survive the sustained drought.

It comes as Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will head to drought-stricken towns next week, signalling the Morrison Government will form a more significant strategy to help those struggling on the land.

The new money, on top of the $7 billion in drought support, will be split into three categories;

* Making it easier to receive the Farm Household Allowance (FMA), which includes a supplement of up to $12,000, discounted healthcare and counselling. The FMA will also increase from $4000 to $10,000 for farmers to upgrade their qualifications, such as getting certificates to drive machinery so their income can be supplemented during tough times. The expanded FMA will cost $51.5 million.

* An extra $33 million for the Drought Community Support Initiative, which provides families up to $3000 in cash or vouchers to help pay for food, pay for their electricity bill and put fuel in their 4WDs.

* And pumping an extra $13 million in the Drought Community Program, for 13 local government areas to push cash into the local economy. In Queensland, North Burnett, Banana and Western Downs shires will now be able to access the program.

The Queensland Government committed an additional $74.6 million over four years towards its drought assistance package in this year's Budget.

Mr Morrison, who will be with Drought Minister David Littleproud, said he "couldn't make it rain" but would do what he could to make farmer's lives easier.

"I know that things are only getting harder for many farmers and rural communities, and that's why we are taking further action and providing even more support,'' Mr Morrison said last night.

"As I've said before, this isn't set and forget.

"We need to keep listening and keep taking action.

"We know we can't make it rain, but we must keep finding ways to do everything we can to make life just a bit easier and remove some of the burden.

"That's why our Government is providing more money to help people with bills, more money for counselling and more money to local councils.

"We've got to get more cash into these communities and cut more red tape, making it easier to access support.

"I will do everything in my power to ease the burden on farmers and their communities.

"That's our Government's promise."