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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3495..

Farmhand appeal

MR HUMPHRIES (Leader of the Opposition) (10.59): Mr Speaker, I move:

That given the terrible drought which now affects most of Australia, and in particular 98 per cent of New South Wales, and most of the neighbouring shires to the Australian Capital Territory, and that other Australian states have committed to support the Farmhand Appeal, this Assembly calls on the ACT government to make a financial contribution to the Farmhand Appeal.

This motion is a timely one in circumstances that are rapidly deteriorating. Indeed, the motion might have to be amended, because it refers to 98 per cent of New South Wales being drought affected. I think it is now 99 per cent.

The proposition behind this motion is quite simple. It is to call on the ACT community, through its government, to support what I believe is the only widespread effective social measure designed to support rural communities in Australia affected by what some are calling the worst drought in a century.

The motion calls for financial support from the ACT government for the Farmhand appeal. Members will be aware of the Farmhand Foundation. It has been very much in the news in recent weeks. It has had a major phone-in appeal. Many community-based organisations are presently raising funds for it. Australian governments at all three levels are supporting the appeal.

The Farmhand Foundation is the largest non-government group ever formed to tackle drought in Australia. It was formed to provide immediate relief to people suffering the effects of drought and to promote long-term strategies to help drought-proof Australian agriculture.

It was launched on 3 October this year, and as at 21 October had already raised $13.5 million. Sadly, that $13.5 million will be, excuse the pun, a mere drop in the ocean in dealing with the massive effects of the social problem Australia faces as a result of this drought.

The foundation is chaired by Bob Mansfield, the CEO of Telstra Corporation, and has a number of very senior Australian business people in its ranks. It is certainly attracting the attention of a great many ordinary Australians who appreciate that action of some kind is necessary.

The ACT, at this stage, appears to be in a relatively fortuitous position. As yet the government has not made a drought declaration in respect of the ACT, although with the water levels in our major dams falling daily and the effect of the drought being evident as we drive around the community that decision may well be not far away.

This motion is not so much about what we do within the boundaries of the ACT, with its perhaps better position than other jurisdictions in Australia as about what we do collectively for a community suffering very severely at the hands of this devastating natural phenomenon. We have a history of assisting citizens in other states and indeed in

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