The Federal Opposition is urging the Coalition to extend the December 1 deadline for drought-hit farmers making an application for extra payments under the Farm Household Allowance.
In August, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced an additional $12,000 for FHA recipients, which comes on top of the standard Jobseeker welfare assistance funding.
The extra cash will be made in two even payments, and the deadline for applications to receive the first payment is tomorrow.
The government is conducting a review of FHA following complaints about the difficulty of applying for an FHA, and has committed to simplify the process, reduce paperwork and add more staff to man the phones.
The application process has been criticised as too onerous and confusing, with more than 70 questions.
While there are around 20,000 farmers potentially eligible for the FHA, just 2000 currently receive benefits.
Labor pretends to suggest a change it knows is impossible
About 8000 of Australia's 80,000 farmers received $230 million in FHAs since 2014.
Labor Agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the government should extend the deadline in the spirit of the festive season.
“Labor has urged the Government to remove the cut off date because it seems a particularly cruel measure as we head into the Christmas period,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“I continue to get emails from farmers complaining about their inability to access the FHA and the sheer frustration of going through the process. A number of my colleagues have received similar correspondence.
Many of these farmers don’t like seeking welfare. They delay making their application and the damage is they will be too late.”
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said Mr Fitzgibbon’s extension request was a media stunt on issue and if the party was genuinely concerned it should have raised the issue earlier.
“Labor pretends to suggest a change it knows is impossible,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The suggestion Labor used to chase a headline would require change to legislation today, when Labor knows parliament is not sitting.
“Labor is interested in media stunts, not in farmers. If it were genuine Labor would have suggested this weeks ago.”
In October CWA of Australia president Tanya Cameron welcomed the review of FHAs, but was concerned about the time it will take for it to make recommendations.
“Now’s not the time to hold off making changes. Surely there are things that could happen sooner to make it easier people,” Mrs Cameron said.
“People are falling through the cracks who could be eligible. They aren’t applying, or they’ve been found ineligible or they’ve found the application process too daunting.”
The story Littleproud defends Labor criticism of FHA application deadline first appeared on Farm Online.