Federal Government drought assistance
Most of the Parkes electorate is experiencing the ongoing challenges of the current drought. Dry conditions continue across almost all of New South Wales, and I can see the devastation many communities are facing as a result of this.
I recently travelled west through my electorate to places like Narromine, Warren, Cobar, Wilcannia and Broken Hill, and it’s clear to me every farming community has its own unique way of dealing with the drought. I’m pleased that there are an array of support options available to farmers in need through the Federal and State Governments, and I’d like to remind farmers about the key Federal Government support measures available to them, despite public misinformation that has been apparent in recent times.
The Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS) is just a phone call away for those interested in finding out more about the support measures for which they may qualify. Funding for this Federal Government service was recently boosted to more than $70 million from 1 April 2016 to 20 June 2020. This will help to make sure the program keeps up with demand and helps farming communities to generate their own wealth and build strong, healthy livelihoods. The RFCS can be reached on 1800 686 175, and can provide information about government, and other assistance schemes available to farmers.
The Farm Household Allowance (FHA) has helped more than 7,900 people at a cost of more than $230 million since it was launched in 2014. Recently, the FHA was extended from three to four years. I know many farmers who appreciate the financial support of the FHA. I also know that there are many farmers out there that have self-assessed, and as a result are missing out on this resource. It is extremely important not to self-assess, but to phone the Farmer Assistance Hotline on 13 23 16 for advice.
The Federal Government has committed $2 million to rural mental health in recent times. Two counselling organisations, Aussie Helpers and Rural and Remote Mental Health, will each receive $1 million to further support the mental health of people living in the bush. This $2 million investment will assist the organisations to deliver a range of mental health support programs, including suicide-prevention measures.
Minister Littleproud also recently announced a Farm Liaison Officer to better connect farmers to drought assistance. The Farm Liaison Officer will travel between the four RFCS regions, including NSW Central and NSW Northern, to help connect farmers, businesses and communities with the support of the RFCS and community assistance measures.
In my opinion, the future viability of our farming communities will rely on our resilience through tough times and our preparedness for future drought events. While every farmer and farming community has their own way of coping in drought, the Coalition Government’s drought support measures continue to provide assistance that is well-received by farmers in this time of need.
While I regret that I cannot make it rain, I encourage every farmer struggling with the drought to consider the assistance measures available to them, and to continue to support one another through this trying time.
Adventure for young Australians
Young Australians in the Parkes electorate looking for an adventure can now apply for a voyage in Sail Training Ship (STS) Young Endeavour, delivered by Royal Australian Navy personnel.
During an 11-day voyage, 24 young participants are taught the skills required to sail a square-rigged tall ship – including how to navigate, keep watch, cook in the galley, take the helm and climb the 30 metre mast to work aloft, setting and furling sails.
A voyage in Young Endeavour gives participants skills for life and the chance to test themselves in a challenging new environment, while developing their communication, teamwork and leadership skills.
Young Endeavour conducts 20 voyages each year, typically on the east coast of Australia. This program is now in its 30th year and has benefitted more than 13,300 young Australians.
With the ship soon to sail north from Sydney to tropical North Queensland, now is a great time for young people from my electorate to apply for a voyage and gain memories and skills to last a lifetime.
The program is open to all young Australians aged 16–23. Businesses and community groups can also get involved, by providing scholarships for eligible local participants. For more information about the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme and to apply for voyages aboard STS Young Endeavour, visit youngendeavour.gov.au.
Private health insurance reforms
I’m pleased that private health insurance will be improved for people living in rural and regional areas as a result of Coalition Government reforms. This includes those living in the Parkes electorate.
These reforms will allow insurers to offer travel and accommodation benefits under private health insurance hospital cover. This will support customers living in country areas who need to travel to larger urban centres to receive specialist hospital treatment not available in their local towns.
I know a large number of people in my electorate that often need to travel to receive hospital treatment in larger urban centres or capital cities.
As it stands, travel and accommodation can generally only be claimed by members with top level general treatment (extras) cover, and the benefits offered have not kept pace with costs.
The Coalition Government’s reforms will come into effect from 1 April 2019. The improved travel and accommodation benefits are part of a broader package of private health insurance reforms to improve affordability for consumers, and make private health insurance easier to understand.
Private health insurance offers many benefits including access to private in-hospital services. It also provides cover for services not covered by Medicare such as physiotherapy, dental, optometry and podiatry services. This is good news for people that rely on private health insurance to access services they would otherwise be unable to afford.