Mr COULTON (Parkes—Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government and Assistant Trade and Investment Minister) (16:30): I rise to sum up on the Farm Household Support Amendment Bill 2019. I understand we’ll be dealing with the amendments after I sum up. This bill demonstrates the government’s responsiveness to the needs of farming communities in rural and regional Australia.
The Farm Household Allowance Program provides up to four years of eligible income support to farmers and their partners while they take steps to assess and improve their long-term financial situation. While on the payment, farmers and their partners have access to a healthcare card and a pharmaceutical allowance, rent assistance, telephone allowance, energy supplement and remote area allowance where applicable. These features of the program are unchanged.
Farmers accessing the program are subject to income and on-farm and off-farm asset thresholds. Between 1 September 2018 and 30 June 2019, the on-farm asset threshold known as the farm asset value limit was increased from $2.6 million to $5 million. This bill proposes to maintain the farm asset value limit at $5 million from 1 July 2019. The government understands farmers can be asset rich but cash poor and need support to improve their circumstances, particularly if they are experiencing poor climatic conditions.
The program supports recipients to consider alternative employment, or to make the decision to transition away from farming but to implement the change on their own terms. We know things are tough for a growing number of farmers. In the last year, government outlays on the program have grown from more than $230 million to over $340 million. We have helped an unprecedented number of farmers and their partners, with the number climbing to over 12,000 recipients over the life of the program.
This bill also clarifies the treatment of deductions and income for recipients. As to allowable deductions, the business running costs can be claimed against the earnings to which they relate. For example, fuel, insurance, cartage and interest payments related to the farm enterprise can be taken off the income of the farm. People who have a second, unrelated business can deduct the running costs from that business against their income.
The bill maintains the farm asset value limit at $5 million. It clarifies the treatment of deductions and income for recipients and helps farmers and their partners plan for their future financial security.
I thank the members for their contributions, and I commend the bill to the House.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Andrews): I thank the Minister. The question is that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Kennedy to the amendment moved by the member for Hunter be agreed to.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question then before the House is that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Hunter be agreed to. All those of that opinion say aye; to the contrary no.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The noes have it. There’s no division required.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question now is that the bill be read a second time.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Mr COULTON (Parkes—Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government and Assistant Trade and Investment Minister) (16:34): by leave—I move:
That this bill be now read a third time.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a third time.