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Source: Australian Ministers for Regional Development

Ivo Da Silva: Well I do have now the Federal Minister for Water Resources, Drought and Emergency Services, the Honourable Mister David Littleproud. Welcome to the Goldfields Minister, I bet we wish it was in better circumstances. Why are you in WA today, and particularly the Goldfields region?

David Littleproud: Well look, Vince Catania asked me over to come and listen. Obviously we appreciate that this drought is like a cancer, it started in my part of the world eight years ago and it’s just spread from the East Coast all the way down to the bottom into Tasmania now crossing to WA. And so there’s an appreciation of the fact that you guys are doing it tough and that we’re here to listen and to learn. A drought in WA’s different to a drought in Queensland or New South Wales and we want to make sure that our response is adequate and hits the mark for people in WA.

Ivo Da Silva: Now, you’re going to be speaking with the councils in the area and also pastoralists, what will you be discussing with them?

David Littleproud: What we appreciate as the federal government is the drought extends past the farm gate so it’s not just the farmers that hurt, its actually also the businesses in those communities that support them as well and that’s why we’re trying to make sure that our stimulus not only helps the farmers but also helps the small businesses that support them in these communities. So we’ll be looking to roll out programs over here like Building Better Regions, the Drought Community Program to make sure there’s a stimulus for small businesses that support them as well as the traditional programs we roll out to farmers like Farm Household Allowance.

And today I can announce to you that the Regional Investment Corporation loans for farmers, the $2 million that they can re-finance from their existing bank to the Regional Investment Corporation and pay nothing for two years, starts today. And that-

Ivo Da Silva: That is great news.

David Littleproud: That’s something that we’re really proud of the fact that for two years you’ll pay absolutely three parts of bugger all, in fact you’ll pay nothing, and that’s what we want to make sure is we’ll money back into farmers pockets. So, that’s about $150,000 a year we believe between principal and interest repayments that they won’t have to make if they re-finance $2 million of their commercial debt across to the Regional Investment Corporation – so that’s a big investment in farmers, and we’re doing that today here in WA.

Ivo Da Silva: Is there any conditions in relation to that? Like, does there have to be a percentage of farming compared to mining in the, with people who they employ.

David Littleproud: You have to be a farmer, more than 50 per cent of your income comes from primary production. So if you’re a farmer and you’ve got debt with a commercial bank your opportunity today is to refinance with the Regional Investment Corporation up to $2 million of that debt. So, we’re saying to you is we’re going to put $150,000 back in your pocket every year for two years.

And the Prime Minister and I have both said that if it stays dry for another two years we’re going to have to look at those terms and if we have to extend it we will because we understand the only thing that’s going to fix this is rain.

Ivo Da Silva: How can the state and federal governments help pastoralists in the region? Is there a need to be a better working together of the two forms of government?

David Littleproud: Well, definite. And look, we’ve all signed up in a bipartisan way to our responsibilities. The states signed up to looking after animal welfare – the freight and fodder. We signed up to farmer welfare. What we expect the states to do is to compliment what we’re doing, in fact I’ve written to every premier and said the programs that we’ve just announced – the drought package that complements the over $8 billion that we put out, another $709 million – you could work with this and pay the councils the rates of small businesses and farmers, their rates for the coming year, to give them more cash.

We’re just saying to them this is an opportunity for the state to put their hand out and help complement the package we’ve got to stimulate these communities, and if they did that would be a huge opportunity. But also payroll tax, they’re charging payroll tax to large employers in our regional communities and particularly you look at meat processors – their drought is coming, their drought comes as soon as it rains. There won’t be, there won’t be the head to process as soon as it rains and they’re invariably the biggest employers in a lot of these communities and if you lose them, you lose two or 300 jobs, you decimate a town.

So we’re saying to the states, we’re not playing politics, we’re just saying we’ve all got a role to play and you could come with us and do a little bit with us.

Ivo Da Silva: Now, Minister I know you’re short on time, you’re heading off to Meekatharra I think shortly and you’re going to be back in Kalgoorlie Boulder. What is your message to people who are doing it tough at the moment?

David Littleproud: Well, the Australian Government is standing shoulder-to-should with you. You have a safety net, we live in a rich country. Not everyone gets money from the government and nor should you. No-one’s owed a living in this country but if you’re doing it tough there’s a safety net and that’s how the Australian Government has always worked of all political persuasions. We’ve got a safety net there that’ll put over $120,000 in your pocket. Over the period of the Farm Household Allowance we’re going to put $150,000 a year through the reduction of interest and principal repayments through your loans.

We’re going to help you get through this because we understand that when it does rain you will be the economic engine room of this nation. Agriculture is sexy, it just needs rain and when it rains we’re going to make a lot of money and we’ve got to be proud and loud about that. And it will rain and what we’re doing in driving this nation’s economy is a reflection of the federal government’s response to being there with you. And we understand now, and you and you guys in WA are coping it just as hard we are in the eastern of the states.

Ivo Da Silva: Well Minister, thank you very much for your time. I do wish you well in WA and hope to get you back here in better circumstances but I hope your interviews and meetings today go very well.

David Littleproud: Great to be in WA. Brilliant state, love to be here.

Ivo Da Silva: Thank you. And there we have the Minister there, David Littleproud, Minister Littleproud speaking about the federal government being in the region who’s speaking to pastoralists and also councils and just announcing there some more loans in regards to people who are doing it tough.

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