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Source: Prime Minister of Australia

THE HON. BARNABY JOYCE MP, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: In 1958, Keith and Gwen Sing from Lismore came across here with a Blitz truck to start the construction of the first on Dungowan Dam. And with that they also got finance into the earthmoving plant and built themselves into a major business. The construction of dams is not just the water and the future and the security of regional Australia, regional New South Wales and most especially here in the Peel Valley, the construction of dams is a statement of confidence into the future of the cities and towns that are growing. If we want to decentralise Australia, we must invest in this sort of seminal infrastructure so that the [inaudible]come to town, so that the concrete batching plants keep working, so the tourism industry with the Country Music Festival can be supported. I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart the great work that has been done by the Prime Minister of Australia Scott Morrison, the Premier of New South Wales Gladys Berejiklian, the Deputy Prime Minister and the person whose portfolio this resides in Michael McCormack, and John Barilaro who I know will drive the changes in regulations to make sure this happens efficiently, quickly and I acknowledge the statements of Melinda Pavey and Minister Stokes that they have their shoulder to the wheel on this. This is a clear statement that we mean business. We are dealing with a drought. We hear what you are saying and we are delivering. I’ll hand now over to the Premier.

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: Thank you, Barnaby, and can I also acknowledge all of my colleagues that are here today and today is about a partnership between the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government. We will be investing a further billion dollars into much-needed water infrastructure across the state. Already the New South Wales Government in the last two years has provided 60 new bores, 14 new pipelines, but we know that if we’re serious about securing our water needs into the future we must – we must – upgrade and build new dams and I’m very pleased to be here at Dungowan. This will be a new dam downstream three kilometres. Also today we’re announcing that Wyangala will be expedited as well, Wyangala Dam in the Central West and these two commitments are a billion dollars at least and that will be a 50/50 share between the Federal Government and the New South Wales Government. I want to thank our colleagues to support our efforts in this regard. This is a demonstration when the Federal and State Governments work together about what can be achieved and I want to give everybody our assurance that we will ensure that these dams are built in the best and quickest way possible. And I also want to acknowledge at a state level the efforts of the Deputy Premier John Barilaro who’s been on the front foot on this issue for a long time. But today is about acknowledging and thanking the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, the Deputy Prime Minister and everybody else who’s been involved in securing water across the nation. And where New South Wales is concerned, I’m extremely pleased that the feds are joining us in providing that water security not just for today but also for the next generation.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks Gladys. I’m very pleased to be here with my colleagues, state and federal. It was a year ago where we held the national drought summit and what flowed from that drought summit was a series of initiatives, a strategy, to combat to respond to the drought. Now that response has three key components. The first of those is to provide that direct assistance to those who are on the land and between New South Wales Government and with the Premier and ourselves and the local governments as well that assistance has been forthcoming. Whether it’s been in additional farm household payments, support for mental health, support into local communities being delivered through groups like the Salvation Army and St Vincent de Paul. Just last year about $300 million and more which was put into the end of June last year. And the same again this year and the same again next year in additional financial assistance and support into these communities and that also includes the second part of the plan which is to deal with supporting the communities themselves. As we’ve been reminded many times, when the income isn’t coming into the farm, the income isn’t coming into the town. And it’s so important that we support those towns and we’ve been doing that through the Drought Communities Program. But you’ve also got to look to the future. And that’s about building the resilience for future drought events. I mean, drought events are not a surprise in this country. They’ve been happening for a very, very long time, ever since we’ve been running properties all across the country. And so you’ve got to build that resilience and so there have been projects which have been from on-farm water infrastructure, some $50 million going into those projects to support farmers right now, graziers who are upgrading their water infrastructure on-farm their turkey nests, all these sorts of things. That’s been getting support under this program. But then there are the big projects and I particularly want to thank the Premier and the Deputy Premier for being a state government that wants to build dams and water infrastructure and not just says they want to do it. But are actually going to do it and roll up their sleeves and ensure that we can get these built. And the Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and I couldn’t have been more pleased when we got together with the Premier and the Deputy Premier just over a month, about a month ago, as we were fast-tracking where could we fast-track some of these water infrastructure projects as the drought rolled on. And so we worked up a list and then we put two of these two projects here at the top of that list and that’s why we’re pleased to stand shoulder to shoulder with the state government who at the end of the day, state governments are the ones who’ve got to dig the holes and dig them deeper and build the pipeline and do all of these things. Our role is to support them in that and so we’ve been very pleased to do that here today. It is the longer piece in how we respond to the drought. The droughts that will come in the future, the water resources that will support not just the town as we’ve already seen with the water infrastructure we’ve seen around here and the pipelines that built are built for Chaffey and so on but the (inaudible) sound but are being built I should say. But it’s also about the agricultural communities that will rely on that water resource into the future. So this really does talk to our comprehensive response, our consistent and determined response. And you know what. It’s the first call on the budget federally, and it’s not set and forget and it’s certainly not set and forget with the New South Wales Government and ourselves there’ll be more investments as we prioritise things as we look at other ways to support. I mean under the National Drought agreement it’s the State Government that’s supporting particularly in areas of fodder and transport it’s the Commonwealth Government that supports in terms of financial assistance to farming communities. And so it’s great to be here today. I also want to thank everyone who’s been involved in this but particularly Michael McCormack who is not only the minister responsible as Barnaby outlined earlier but is DPM and is leading the charge on all of this within our government but also to the Premier Gladys Berejiklian for the leadership she’s showing I love working with premiers who want to build dams. I was down in Tasmania with Premier Will Hodgman and we’ve got the Scottsdale project there, making that reservoir bigger and Michael could probably talk about that, he loves that one too. I love working with premiers who want to build dams and thank you so much Gladys for being one of those premiers and I know Barnaby’s been looking forward to this project for a long time and he’s been a great champion and advocate for this project and he’s worked closely with us as we’ve taken this forward. So with that thank you again I’m going to hand over the DPM to talk more specifically about our involvement.

THE HON. MICHAEL MCCORMACK MP, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Thank you Prime Minister and today the dream becomes a reality and you heard from Barnaby Joyce saying that this dam behind us was built in 1958 and it’s time that we upgraded, it’s time that we renewed it, it’s time that we refreshed what we already have here. This has been an important piece of water infrastructure for the Tamworth region but three and a half kilometres downstream from here we are going to build a very very impressive dam and of course at Wyangala dam in the central west. We’re also raising the dam wall there by 10 metres and that is going to be significant. The Mayor of Forbes Shire Council Phyllis Miller when I spoke to her this morning she said well this is fantastic news. This is a game-changer. And she also repeated what the Prime Minister and the Premier have already said this morning and that’s what you get when you have a willing state government and a willing Commonwealth federal government working together hand in hand to build a water infrastructure that our country, that our state, so desperately needs. Of course, we have been getting on with the job of building water infrastructure, building dams, of heightening lengthening and strengthening weirs and most importantly although perhaps on a smaller scale building the pipelines to better plumb our nation. So what we’re doing here with these two particular projects with Wyangala and with Dungowan is increasing the inland water storage by the equivalent of 1.2 Sydney Harbours. So that’s an impressive amount of water that is going to go to security for towns such as Forbes and certainly flood mitigation. Also Tamworth of course but also growing agriculture. We have a plan to grow agriculture federally from the $60 billion dollar industry that it is to $100 billion dollars by 2030 and with increased water security with increased water storage infrastructure. We will do that. We’ve already got 22 major infrastructure projects on the go at the moment. We’ve got a five billion dollar investment through the loan facility and through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund that we’re investing in water infrastructure so it’s not as if we haven’t been doing it but we’re now ramping it up we’ve upped the ante we’ve upped the ante today as I say today the dream becomes a reality I know how hard Barnaby Joyce has fought for this and I know how pleased John Barilaro the Deputy Premier and the Nationals Leader in New South Wales has also been banging on about this for years. Delighted that we’re getting on with the job. I’m delighted that I’ve been able to work with the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and a premier Gladys Berejiklian who share our vision for this nation who share our confidence in this state of New South Wales, and New South Wales I have to say is now very much as it always does, showing the way for the other states and I do hope that other states then can follow this example and build a water storage infrastructure in conjunction with the Commonwealth that we so desperately need, and I’ll hand over to John Barilaro to add some further remarks.

THE HON. JOHN BARILARO MP, DEPUTY PREMIER OF NSW: Thank you. Look from every drought there are lessons and this drought of course, a long protracted tough drought on regional rural communities. The lesson is that we need more storage to deal with longer dry spells and this won’t be the last drought, there’ll be more in the future. Today we draw the line in the sand. Today we stopped talking and we get on with a new era of building water infrastructure in regional and rural New South Wales. We’ve always said if you want to build prosperity in the bush just add water, and we know we need to do that by building new dams, at Wyangala the raising of the dam wall, 650 gigs is an equivalent of a new dam. Here of course at Dungowan, a brand new dam. And of course the investigative work that we’re doing with [inaudible]River north of the state means for the first time in this state we’ve got a plan that will give hope and security to regional and rural communities, to our landholders but more importantly we want to see a regional and rural New South Wales grow. To have growth we need hope, we need infrastructure that allows us to grow and today can I congratulate the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister the Premier of New South Wales the local members in both Barnaby Joyce and Kevin Anderson who isn’t here today but champions on behalf of this community because we believe this is the infrastructure that, one- grows the economy, creates jobs, stimulates local businesses; but at the same time gives us a long term water infrastructure to give us some hope in the future. Sort of remind everybody that the New South Wales Government over the past couple of years has spent in excess of three billion dollars in either drought relief and drought support supporting our farmers who are doing it tough and water projects over $800 million dollars. 111 projects on emergency water projects to make sure communities do not run out of water. No different to what we’ve done at Malpas dam, linked to Guyra pipeline that we officially opened last week. We also announced a new pipeline from Puddledock dam in at the edge of Armidale to go back to Armidale, to make sure Armidale doesn’t run out of water. Be it bores up at Tenterfield or new waterworks in places like Cobar. We are geared and ready to support regional rural communities so they don’t run out of water. That is our assurance we’re going to stand shoulder to shoulder. But today I do congratulate the leadership of the Prime Minister and the Premier to support regional rural communities. And today is a fantastic day for regional rural New South Wales. 

PRIME MINISTER: Happy to take some questions on these projects and the issues that surround them and them when we can move to other matters federal and state and we deal with those in turn. 

JOURNALIST: Premier Berejiklian, your government has said Dungowan Dam was too expensive for several years to upgrade. It’s been an issue that’s been, I guess the council’s been battling with they own this dam. Why are you building a new one. Why not just upgrade this one? 

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: because we’ve done the work on it. What was missing in the past was the funds to accelerate the project, and that’s why I’m so pleased to announce it with the cooperation of the federal government, the support of the federal government. This is a partnership now and as has been stated, for too long it’s been talked about and today we draw the line in the sand and we say both Wyangala dam and Dungowan have to proceed and we’ve got the resources now to accelerate what’s there with the planning work we have done and I’m confident early works will start next year and I’m looking forward to that.  

JOURNALIST: How long will it take to build? 

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW:  Well we suspect it’ll be completed around 2024-25. If we can bring that forward even further we will. But at this stage, it will take around four years.  

JOURNALIST: The feds have already put $75 million on the table, looking at Dungowan dam and Barnaby announced that more than a year ago, is $480 in addition? 

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: Well obviously we’d allocated money for Wyangala dam already and now we’re saying we will fund half of the Dungowan dam which is a $450 million dollar project. So at least half of that will come from the State Government. That is a big commitment. And as the Deputy Premier said we need to put things into perspective. This is on top of the $3 billion we invested in regional communities in the last two years alone. Just the last two years we actually invested in excess of three billion dollars to support the drought, farmers doing it tough through the drought, but also to secure our water infrastructure and to have built 60 bores and 14 pipelines in the last 2 and a bit years alone is pretty massive. And of course these dams are the next stage in securing our water security for the future. 

JOURNALIST: You said the Government’s attitude to the dam has changed because the funding is there now, where did the funding come from? 

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: Well it’s not just the funding it’s also the political will. And when you’ve got a Federal Government backing what you’re doing, that gives us the impetus and the momentum to keep pushing forward because ordinarily these things do take time but as the Deputy Premier said we’re drawing a line in the sand. We’ve done the works for that in terms of the planning works, we’re confident that we can start early works next year and we’re proceeding haste-fully. 

JOURNALIST: But the Federal Government’s always been on board with this? 

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: Well not with the funding, with all due respect both parties have now come together to say we’ve upped the ante, and we’ve had priorities, let’s face it. The Deputy Premier and I in New South Wales have to worry about where people are going to drink their next glass of water. And that’s why our priority was,weirs, bores, pipelines. But now that we’ve secured that, we’re at the next stage and whilst we do have challenges across the state these dams now take our focus. And in New South Wales you can be assured that when we say we’re going to do something we do it. We get things done. And now with the support of the federal government the funds in the bank we’re able to accelerate these projects.  

JOURNALIST: Who will control the water in the new Dungowan dam, will it be owned by Tamworth Regional Council or the state government? 

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: Well these are issues that of course, we will move forward with but what is priority for us is having the water, is having the water, is having the water there to support the communities and they’re lovely discussions to be in a position to be able to have because we weren’t able to have those discussions before. But I also want to thank the mayor who is here. For his support, and I know that he’s got a big smile on his face today because this community will benefit and we were talking about some of the challenges and opportunities this brings. But this is a good day for this region. 

PRIME MINISTER: Col, did you want to say something mate? 

THE HON. BARNABY JOYCE MP, MEMBER FOR NEW ENGLAND: Col, do you want to tell them like the reason it’s downstream is because you’re below [inaudible] creek and it’s a bigger dam with a bigger catchment? 

COL MURRAY, MAYOR OF TAMWORTH REGIONAL COUNCIL: So on behalf of the community I represent today this is a massive milestone event to have the support of our federal government and our state government and I’d really like to acknowledge the leadership that I think will be refreshing right around our nation to see that we’ve got two governments here that are prepared to collaborate and work together on these these significantly needed major projects, water for our community has been a massive issue for quite a number of years and I would suggest that we would maybe be one of the most water restricted cities in regional Australia over the last 10 or 15 years and it’s a great problem to have because our community is growing and this announcement today I believe will halt the businesses that have looked at investing in Tamworth and have gone away to invest elsewhere because the water security just hasn’t been here. So this is a milestone event. Mr. Prime Minister and Madam Premier and your deputies I’d like to say on behalf of our community a massive thank you. 

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you. 

JOURNALIST: How big will the dam be and are you going to have to buy properties or forcibly acquire them downstream? 

COL MURRAY, MAYOR OF TAMWORTH REGIONAL COUNCIL: The dam at the moment and it hasn’t been finally decided, but I would suggest that it’s most likely the dam will be around twenty-two and a half gigalitres. Council has already acquired all the properties and continue to acquire properties downstream that may be affected by this potential dam. We have over the last four or five years picked up all of those lands so there is no land acquisition needed for this project. And one of the really important considerations with the new location of the dam is to take in that [inaudible]Creek catchment which represents almost one-third of the potential yield for this valley. 

JOURNALIST: What will this do for the spirits of people in Tamworth. We are doing it tough, water restrictions? 

COL MURRAY, MAYOR OF TAMWORTH REGIONAL COUNCIL:  This will be a massive spike of energy I think for our community, our resilience has been severely tested but a lot of that is about confidence we’ve got such a big part of our regional economy is our food processing cluster which is acknowledged as being the largest food processing cluster in Australia. And you know there’s many many thousands of jobs involved in that sector and we’ve had discussions with those business leaders and worked very closely with our state agencies and Water Minister and Deputy Premier on shoring up their confidence and ensuring that they stay invested in our community and I’m very very very happy today to say that you know, be able to report back to those Thomas Foods to Baiada and to Teys Cargill to say that our water security is now in the bag and thank you once again Mr. Prime Minister and Madam Premier and and I’d also like to acknowledge the really good work that water minister Melinda Pavey is currently doing and Madam premier I think you could be justifiably proud of the work that herself and Deputy Premier Barilaro have done and we’ve really enjoyed the close working relationship between a genuine partnership we feel from local government. And once again to have had the support of the federal government I know Barnaby’s been working particularly hard on this project and every time I’ve annoyed him and in Canberra on this project he’s gone along the corridors and annoyed everyone in the building and I thank you for that and also for Kevin Anderson. Kevin’s worked very hard on this project and unfortunately, he’s having a little bit of time off at the moment but I’d like to publicly thank Kevin and acknowledge the good work that he’s done. 

PRIME MINISTER: Very good. 

JOURNALIST: The last dam that was built in New South Wales was built in Manila. So in this region, that was almost 30 years ago. This drought didn’t happen last week. Overnight, it’s been building for a number of years. Have your governments not done enough to I guess safeguard or secure water security for this drought. Because you’re already planning for the next one? 

PRIME MINISTER: Michael can speak on behalf of the Commonwealth on that. 

THE HON. MICHAEL MCCORMACK MP, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER FOR INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT: Well significantly we have actually invested in pipelines, in plumbing. I come from southern New South Wales and I know around Coleambally in Griffith and those sorts of areas we have significantly plumped with pipelines and with making sure we line channels and making sure that weirs are what they should be, upgrades as far as maintenance are concerned. Yes. You say we haven’t built a major dam. Well, we’re getting on with it now. But the fact is we have been spending a lot of money doing the sorts of things that organisations such as the New South Wales Farmers Association, New South Wales Irrigators Council and more importantly I suppose the NFF and the Murray-Darling Association and other organisations such as that have asked us to do as far as making sure that we have the right amount of irrigation water making sure that we’ve got the right water security this drought is one of, if not the worst on record. And yes we are now upping the ante as I said before to make sure that we build a water infrastructure we need and it hasn’t come without criticism. I mean I’m sure there are going to be greenies and people who were who criticise even what we’re doing now. However they should know that the food and fibre production doesn’t happen by chance and we need to store water so that we can, in wet times, and it will rain again, it will rain and it will rain so heavily you know there will be some people who will probably cursed it, but what we’re going to do is we’re going to store it and then we’re going to use it in the dry times. And I look at the Scottsdale project in northeast Tasmania. Now that came at a cost of around $57 million dollars. The local irrigators there back themselves to the tune of $12.03 million dollars. Now that dam has not been yet commissioned. It opens in January next year, yet there’s already 5900 megalitres in that 9000 or so megalitre dam. So it’s already more than half full just through runoff a bit of rain and you know that’s what’s going to happen here. We will get the water storage capacity that we need as a nation and as a state, we’ve already invested significantly with the state as a Commonwealth, on the water infrastructure the people asked us to do. We’re now getting on with the job of building major dams and we’ll have shovels in the ground, excavators on site in the next few months. So that’s significant. I’m really really pleased that John Barilaro has already flagged the fact that we obviously yes we’ll look at the environmental and cultural things that we need to. But as Susan Ley has also said Federally we’re going to expedite those. We’re going to make sure that we get the right, the necessary tick offs but we’re not going to be held up, we’re not going to be held up by doing this because the nation has demanded it, the people want it, they expected it, and most of all they deserve it. 

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: Can I just add one more sentence if that’s ok, to the DPM, thank goodness the New South Wales Government took the decisions it did three or four years ago because otherwise, we wouldn’t have had the 60 extra bores. When I go into communities and the Deputy Premier goes into the communities and local mayors local leaders say to us thank goodness you’ve dug those bores because now we have that water in our town that is welcome relief. So if we hadn’t taken those decisions three or four years ago we would have been in a catastrophic position today. I remember when we announced the Broken Hill pipeline I was the treasurer at the time and signed off on it, we’ve got pilloried for investing half a billion dollars – thank goodness we did because Broken Hill now has water, and saved the town. We’ve built 14 pipelines in the last two or three years alone, sunk 60 bores improved weirs, do we have more to do? Of course we do. But I’m so grateful that our government took that leadership three four years ago to embark on a massive upgrade of our water infrastructure and these dams now are the next phase in securing the water for the next generation. 

JOURNALIST: Will these projects announced today be fast-tracked under the changes…

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: They already have. Absolutely and with the combination of the fast-tracking from a planning perspective but also from a financial perspective. So we already had a profile for these dams but because of the federal government’s support we’re able to bring that forward obviously. 

PRIME MINISTER: This is what’s so important, the financial partnership with the state here is obviously as important and that has provided an impetus to bring this forward. But you’ve also got to have a state government that’s willing to actually push through and congestion bust through the regulation that holds these projects up. The reason I know that the New South Wales Government wants to dig holes in the ground and build dams is because they’re not only putting the money in, but they’re doing the work on the process which can get it happening. And that’s where I’m particularly pointing out the leadership that New South Wales is doing here. I want to work with Premiers that want to build dams not just say they are. And that’s what New South Wales is doing. I’ve got a stack of dams I want to build in Queensland and we’re getting very frustrated whether it’s at Emu swamp or it’s up at Rockwood Weir where we’ve had the money on the table for ages but here in New South Wales thank goodness we can move forward with that. And I would encourage others you know we’ve stumped up with the resources, we’ve stumped up with the support and we will in the other states. But they’ve got to be able to remove the blockages and be serious about building these dams. 

JOURNALIST: Sounds like NSW is the golden child at the moment? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well absolutely. Of course they are. I mean, Michael talked about Tasmania I mean Tasmania is not in drought but there we are working together with them during what is, Tasmania is doing very well and they’re investing in their water infrastructure. The industry is, we are, the state government is and so these are things we’re happy to get on and do but we can’t dig a hole anywhere in the country unless the State Government is prepared to do it. And so that’s why we’re pleased that the state government here in New South Wales and in Tasmania where we are getting some progress in other states what we need them to show that leadership and yes the Gold Star is there Glad, because…

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: I’m happy to take it.

PRIME MINISTER: Because you’re doing it.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, obviously this project demonstrates a great working relationship with New South Wales are you comfortable with your working relationship with the other state and territory leaders? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well there are many different issues we work on with the states and territories and Gladys know that as a premier who sits around the COAG table. I mean we’re making a lot of progress at the moment in Victoria. Aren’t we Michael? On our road infrastructure, transport infrastructure and I mean I thank Premier Andrews for the progress we’ve been able to make on that I’ve talked a lot about what we’re doing in Victoria, we’ve got great projects happening in South Australia and in Western Australia, we’re going to have our differences on things from between now and then. No doubt and they won’t be necessarily partisan, certainly not in New South Wales in nature but states and the Commonwealth will often have to work through things. We are frustrated with the infrastructure in Queensland. We make no secret about that and we want to stop getting the run around on those things and we just want to get on with them. And you know we’ve got the money on the table we’ve have had for a long time. So that changing the rules and the changing of the perspective, conditions and the changing of how it’s going to be you know there’s always seems to be some excuse for it not to happen why it’s being held back. We just want we get on with it. 

JOURNALIST: I guess this is a great long term project to protect people and future-proof the state, but you know people need short term, they need help now.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah they do. 

JOURNALIST: This drought is terrible. So do you believe the farm household allowance should be extended beyond its 4 year limit? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well a couple of points last year, the year just finished $165 million dollars was spent on farm household allowance and we have made two big changes to the Farm Household Allowance. The first one was to take it from three to four years, and that was one of the first things we did, we did that a year ago and that significantly increased the eligibility to that payment. The second thing we did, we just did recently it was a couple of weeks ago, and we extended it out to be not just 4 years forever but 4 years out of every 10. And that was another significant commitment along with some others we made on that day, and they are both a recognition of the fact that people need help now. I mean just last year alone more than $300 million dollars went into additional supports into these communities, that’s going to happen again this year, and it’s going to happen again next year.  

JOURNALIST: But do you think it should be [inaudible]? 

PRIME MINISTER: The point I was going to make about the changes we’ve made to farm household allowance is the changes we’ve made were based on the very extensive consultations we undertook with the rural communities. With the agricultural producers. That’s what we undertook to do. We made some initial changes and then we say we’re going to conduct a comprehensive review and the review came back and said it should be 4 in 10. That’s what the community told us and that’s the action we took. Any other changes we will make in this area would also need to be done in close consultation with farming communities, with rural producers, with the National Farmers Federation. We’ve all got views on these things. And so we’re not going to knee jerk respond to this. Our role out to the drought has been very careful, has been very considered and it’s been very significant. Hundreds of millions of dollars extra going in to supports that people need right this very minute and so look we’ll listen carefully to what people have to say about this. We’ll consider what options there are to extend support to people who are in genuine need but the decisions we’ve already taken have given people greater time, greater space and more opportunity to think about what they do next. Which is what the Farm Household Allowance is really all about. It’s providing that that temporary support when people are going through very difficult times, to think about where they go to next. And we’ll keep doing that. And as I said, our response is not set and forget, it’s not set for all time. We keep listening, we keep responding. 

JOURNALIST: I understand you’re visiting fire-affected communities later today. What message do you have for those people particularly around Tenterfield who’ve been slammed in recent weeks? 

PRIME MINISTER: Well the first thing is to put our arms out and our arms around people in a time of very deep distress, the loss of life is just devastating and heartbreaking, and the loss of property as well has been quite significant in these fires. And to console, and to support, the disaster response measures are kicking in and they’re available and from tomorrow in particular-payments, additional payments, are going to be available and we’ll work hand in glove with the State Government to ensure that that support is being delivered on the ground. One of the things I always find helpful when I visit these centres and particularly when we go visit those places and thank them for the work they’re doing and the volunteers, is just to get a sense from them about how things are playing out on the ground and what additional needs there might be. I mean we all get briefings come back to us but my ear is always very carefully turned to whoever sitting in that centre, or whoever has been working on coordinating those resources and responses and just making sure that that’s going to plan and if there’s anything we can do further to help there, we will. But we do have a very comprehensive disaster response capability and an operation that runs in these circumstances and the volunteers are at the heart of that. So to say thank you to consult, and to listen carefully to what further support or assistance might be required. 

THE HON. GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN MP, PREMIER OF NSW: Similarly, and exactly as the Prime Minister said. We know that once the shock wears off that’s when communities need us the most and it’s often it takes months and sometimes years to rebuild. And our job is to say to them we don’t forget about you once the fires go out. We stick by you until you rebuild. And today is all about that. 

PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you all very much for your attention. Thank you. 

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