The Victorian Government has been accused of short-changing dairy farmers over the dairy grants program.
But while State Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell was accusing the government of not doing enough for dairy farmers, Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford said the claims were ‘‘blatant lies from an out-of-touch Coalition’’.
The pair went head-to-head in question time in State Parliament recently, after Ms Lovell asked the minister why the dairy development grants program was advertised as open when Ms Lovell said the funds had been exhausted.
‘‘It came as a surprise to many, when dairy farmers who inquired about the possible additional funds were told, perhaps accidentally, by your department that the government believes dairy farmers have had enough support,’’ Ms Lovell told the chamber.
‘‘Minister, do the comments that the government believes dairy farmers have had enough support represent the views of the Andrews Government, and if not, will more finding be provided for the grant program?’’
The pair exchanged many barbs in parliament, with Ms Lovell interjecting a number of times, prompting Ms Pulford to tell her to ‘‘hold your horses’’.
‘‘The other parts of the program that are still being rolled out include, as (Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet) Shing points out, mental health support, the kinder fee subsidy and the sports and excursions fund,’’ Ms Pulford said.
‘‘Of the over 1000 active rural financial counselling service clients Victoria-wide at the moment, 634 are from the dairy industry.’’
Ms Lovell said in a statement that funding had been quickly exhausted and the government had not made moves to allocate any further funds.
‘‘Farmers are feeling short-changed that the funding ran out less than a month after the program opened, and misled that the government is still advertising the grants as open,’’ she said.
‘‘I questioned the minister over these comments and, tellingly, she did not deny that the government’s view is that it has already provided enough assistance, nor did she agree to allocate any further funding.’’
Ms Pulford continued to defend the policy and said farmers ‘‘don’t want handouts’’.
‘‘They want support that will help their business be profitable and boost their local community in tough times,’’ she said.