FARMERS have lost confidence in the integrity of the Exceptional Circumstances system and its ability to meet the needs of producers facing major drought in WA and Queensland, according to shadow minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Gavan O'Connor.
"Before the 1996 election Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson criticised the Exceptional Circumstances system and said that a Coalition Government would not be allocating assistance by drawing lines on maps," Gavan O'Connor said.
"Five years later we have farmers in WA missing out on assistance merely because they farm on the wrong side of some arbitrary line.
"Farmers have seen the Howard Government move away from an independent, scientifically based system for determining eligibility for access to assistance to one where political considerations play a greater role.
"At the same time the Howard Government has been seeking to push the financial burden for providing assistance onto others, including the states and (unsuccessfully) the insurance industry.
"For months now state Labor governments have joined the Federal Opposition in calling for a review of the Exceptional Circumstances system and finally today the federal Agriculture Minister, Warren Truss, has caught up and acknowledged that the system needs an overhaul.
"Labor believes that a review is long overdue.
"The aim of the Exceptional Circumstances system must be to assist productive farmers to remain on the land and any scheme must remain free from political interference.