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Parliamentary Questions

Question Without Notice No. 1434 asked in the Legislative Council on 26 November 2019 by Hon Robin Scott

Parliament: 40 Session: 1

Answered on

DROUGHT — SOUTHERN RANGELANDS

1434. Hon ROBIN SCOTT to the Minister for Agriculture and Food:

Last week in Meekatharra, I met with federal drought minister, David Littleproud, who advised that he has asked the WA government, in his words, to step up and help the drought-affected pastoralists and farmers in regional WA.

(1) Does the WA government acknowledge that there is a drought in regional WA?

(2) Has the minister made any approaches for Minister Littleproud to visit drought-affected WA regions; and, if not, why not?

(3) When state governments in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland provide subsidies for freight and fodder, why do we not have any such subsidies here in WA?

(4) Will the minister consider assisting in paying the local government rates of regional farmers and small businesses to help ease the burden through the drought?

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN replied:

(1)–(4) I find some of those comments quite extraordinary. Indeed, we have been corresponding with Minister Littleproud for quite some time to engage in this —

Hon Robin Scott: Not according to him, you haven't!

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN: Maybe he does not read his correspondence, but I will give the member some dates. I wrote to Minister Littleproud in July 2019, outlining our desire to work closely with the commonwealth government on investment priorities in Western Australia for consideration for its drought fund that it had established.

Both Minister Kelly and I attended the agriculture ministers' meeting in October this year with Minister Littleproud there. We both raised the issue of the situation in Western Australia, which is different from the situation in the eastern states. I am happy to provide the member with the three-year mapping of the rainfall, but it is absolutely true that this is a terrible year for many of those pastoralists in the rangelands, particularly the southern rangelands. But compare it with the situation in the eastern states, which has endured now for three seasons; when I show the member the maps, he will see that that is not the case in Western Australia. Indeed, this is part of our problem. The situation for people in the eastern states is that they have deep and profound levels of drought and then they come out of it.

Hon Robin Scott interjected.

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN: What is happening in WA is a long, slow decline, and we have been asking —

Hon Robin Scott: Answer part (1)! Just answer the question!

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN: I am answering the question!

The PRESIDENT: Order! Order, minister! Member, you have asked the question. You have interjected a couple of times. The minister has been trying to respond. As we have said before, you ask a question, the minister will provide a response. It may not necessarily be what you expect, but she is providing a response. I ask that you listen to her so she can complete the answer, please.

Hon ALANNAH MacTIERNAN: It is important to understand the difference. One of the interesting things—I do not know whether Minister Littleproud explained to the member why it would be, and we are concerned about this—is that income supplements are available to farmers who are struggling, but only 83 farmers in Western Australia are getting that, yet in each of the other states over 2 000, and in some cases over 3 000, farmers are getting that assistance.

We have written to every pastoralist. We have done over 100 visits to the most at-risk pastoral stations and are working with them on all the animal welfare issues and feed budgeting, providing that sort of assistance. We have been pouring money into large feral animal herbivore control, because that is what the industry has been telling us would help it.

Member, we have been desperately trying to engage with Minister Littleproud over a considerable period. We have met with the drought task force. We have pitched ideas and projects, and I hope that he will adopt a more collaborative approach, as we have seen adopted by Minister Bridget McKenzie, who, I think, is really doing a good job in trying to bring the federal and state governments together.