Farmer protest at Katanning

10 Jan, 2001 03:02 PM
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A HOSTILE crowd of almost 200 farmers confronted Acting Prime Minister John Anderson at Katanning on Tuesday. Farmers were protesting at the Federal Government¹s failure to adequately assist WA growers following three years of frost and drought in a number of regions. The protest, organised by Katanning farmer and WAFF member Terry Noonan, was the result of continuing disquiet in the WA Wheatbelt, after farmers in NSW and Queens-land were given funds from the Exceptional Circumstances and Special Circumstances aid packages following recent floods and droughts in those states. WA farmers feel they have been discriminated against. At Katanning, farmers gathered shortly after 7.30am on Tuesday, carrying banners and signs of protest. Mr Anderson entered town the back way, in company with four federal and two WA police but, instead of going straight into a National Party breakfast, he came down to speak to the noisy crowd. His assertion that Federal Cabinet would address drought-stricken WA farmers¹ plight when it meets later this month was met with little sympathy from the 200-strong crowd. ³Why do we have to wait? NSW didn¹t,² called out one farmer. ³They got 14 inches of rain almost overnight,² Mr Anderson said. ³Our crops were gone in one night, mate,² interjected the farmer. Mr Anderson told the crowd his visit was aimed at giving him a better feel for WA farmers¹ situation. ³I know how serious it is for you. We are waiting for harvest estimates from WA and, when Cabinet meets this month, it will be discussed then,² he said. WAFF general president Colin Nicholl said the National Rural Advisory Committee had observed the WA situation in December. ³Four weeks should be enough to make an assessment,² he said. Mr Nicholl asked Mr Anderson to speed up consideration for Exceptional Circumstances. The general feeling of the gathering was that the more heavily populated areas in the eastern states had gained prompt assistance because of vote-pulling strength. ³You¹re treating us differently from them. Aren¹t we all in the same country?² was one of the interjections. WA¹s federal MPs did not escape criticism either. Farmers have been critical of these MPs¹ seemingly low-key approach to this matter. In some cases this has been perceived as a lack of support, with claims politicians have failed to take up the debate more strongly in Canberra. Mr Nicholl told the farmers the Federation had called on Senator Winston Crane for assistance. ³Who¹s he?² said one farmer sarcastically. Mr Nicholl went on to say that Senator Crane had been lobbying quietly. ³Very quietly,² said a couple of farmers in the same vein. Placards were plentiful. WAFF vice-president Trevor de Landgrafft carried placards with ³two frosts, a flood then a drought must be exceptional². Another placard, carried by a 12-year old boy, had the words ³Mr Anderson I want to be a farmer in the future, we need your help now². ÿ

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