THE Nationals Member for Gippsland South, Danny O’Brien, is calling on the Andrews Labor Government to “stop ignoring Gippsland and offer immediate practical assistance” to drought-affected Gippsland farmers.
Speaking in Parliament last month, Mr O’Brien asked the Minister for Agriculture when she would introduce municipal rate relief for drought-affected farmers in Gippsland, as was previously done by a Labor Government in 2008 and 2009 under then-Premier John Brumby.
In her formal reply to Mr O’Brien, the Minister said the Victorian Government had decided not to provide rate relief, despite support from local MPs, the Victorian Farmers’ Federation and most local farmers.
“It’s a slap in the face for Gippsland farmers that the Minister’s response includes information about how Labor is conducting a review of the Local Government Rating System through an independent panel at a cost of $11.2million to the taxpayers.
“This review will deliver no relief for farmers any time soon.
“It’s beggar’s belief that Labor is turning its back on support policy it has implemented in the past to offer practical assistance right now to keep some money in our farmer’s pockets and support the local business community,” Mr O’Brien said.
“The Minister was very quick to try to pass the buck to our local councils – this totally misses the point of what we are seeking.
“We need the State Government to provide some support, and municipal rate relief is the most equitable way it can support our farmers.
“It seems clear to me that the Andrews Labor Government either doesn’t understand the extent of the drought crisis we are dealing with, or simply doesn’t care.
“Given this attitude, it’s
no surprise many local farmers feel like they’ve been
forgotten.
“We have farmers in complete despair and while unfortunately there is little the government can do to improve the weather, they can help financially.
“Spending millions of dollars on a lengthy inquiry that may or may not see a change to the rating system is not a response to the drought crisis.
“It’s time the Minister stopped sitting on her hands and followed her own party’s precedent to provide real help right now.”