Support urged

By Country News

Barnaby Joyce thinks city Australians need to understand if they want to keep enjoying their foreign-made shoes, phones and cars then they need to back drought support for farmers.

The former federal agriculture minister says giving farmers a hand during times of hardship and drought is not about charity, it’s about helping Australians maintain their standard of living.

In his first speech since a period of leave after a controversial paid television interview with his new partner Vikki Campion, Mr Joyce spoke in support of extending farm household support for an extra year.

Legislation to extend eligibility for income support, future planning and retraining advice for farmers in hardship from three years to four passed the lower house last Wednesday. ‘‘It’s an economic necessity that we continue to maintain our export dollars if we want to maintain our standard of living, so apparent in everything we do in our lives,’’ he said.

Mr Joyce urged people in towns and cities to look around at what in their life was actually produced in Australia, speculating that everything from Speaker Tony Smith’s socks and tie to his home oven was manufactured overseas.

‘‘We’ve got to support people who put things on the boat and send them the other direction and that is one of the reasons we have to support people during droughts, because they’re one of the key people who do it,’’ he said.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the support was more than a handout and extending the program for a year would allow rural financial counsellors to have tough conversations with farmers to help them make the right decisions about their futures.

Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the Federal Government needed to focus on resilience and adaptation to help farmers respond to drought and other hardships.

‘‘We’ve got to help people find new business models, to retrain and for some to acknowledge, sadly, that maybe they don’t have an ongoing concern because of a severely changing climate,’’ he said.

The extended funding will apply to those currently receiving the allowance and those who apply in future, and give an extra year of support to those who have already used their three years.