Truss welcomes WA EC proposal

24 Nov, 2004 10:00 PM

THE Federal Government has welcomed WA Agriculture Minster Kim Chance's proposal for the Federal and state governments to equally share the burden of Exceptional Circumstances (EC) relief funding up to $20 million.

Mr Chance said farmers did not want to hear about conflict between different levels of government as a reason for not being able help them overcome adverse seasonal events.

Under the WA proposal, which would still have to be negotiated and agreed on, the federal government would fully fund EC relief assistance above $20m.

During a doorstop interview at Parliament House in Canberra last week, Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss welcomed Mr Chance's comments.

"I think this is a significant step forward - one of the states has acknowledged it also has a role in providing drought support," he said.

Mr Truss said he looked forward to talking to Mr Chance and other state ministers early next month to reach a national agreement on how to quickly coordinate state and Commonwealth drought assistance with a minimum of bureaucracy and red tape.

Last week Mr Truss announced EC declaration extensions for 18 areas in eastern Australia, including 14 in NSW, two in Victoria and one in Victoria and Queensland.

"This brings to 22 the number of drought-declared areas in Australia which will have a third year of Commonwealth assistance," Mr Truss said.

He said 58pc of Australia's arable area was drought-declared but the amount could be higher. But in some areas seasonal circumstances had improved.

"What is being announced is the roll-over of areas that have already been receiving two years of assistance, and that is that is normally the full extent of the Commonwealth's support during drought," he said.

"But we are still considering applications for declaration for new areas and so those will always be considered on their merits."

The announcement by Mr Truss brings to 20 the number of EC areas to be granted a third year of Australian government drought assistance in the past three months under the easy rollover policy.

In July, WA lost a bid to extend EC assistance for farmers in the northern Wheatbelt. A spokesman for Mr Chance said he was waiting for advice from the Agriculture Department on whether there were grounds to reapply.


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