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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3498 ..

MR HUMPHRIES: Maybe not. Perhaps you are right, Mr Wood. The federal government has announced in the last couple of days that they are making a $5 million donation to the Farmhand appeal. Perhaps that is not enough but to date it is more than the ACT government has provided to that appeal or in the form of relief to rural operators in our region, even within our own boundaries. We can point the finger at others and say they are not generous enough. That is quite true, but I think it behoves us to point the finger only after we have demonstrated our own generosity in these circumstances.

The Labor government in Queensland has announced that it is committing $500,000 to the Farmhand appeal. The Labor government in South Australia is committing $200,000. Other state and territory governments are looking at what support they might provide. I do not think any has yet ruled out supporting the appeal, although some have extensive alternative programs to assist.

It is quite appropriate to consider the effect on our own backyard first. When the suggestion was made that there should be an ACT government donation to the appeal, Mr Wood made the point, quite rightly, "We have plenty of priorities here in Canberra."That is perfectly true. It is also quite true that our level of need is nothing like as great as that in some other places in Australia. It would not be too much for us, given the fairly healthy state of our budget and the fact that the crisis is so severe in other parts of Australia, to make a donation of some kind to this appeal.

There may be other means of providing support outside our borders. I have not heard what they might be. I look forward to hearing what they might be. But in the absence of any advice about alternative mechanisms I believe we need to take steps to deal with this problem in a way which indicates our compassion for those people who are affected badly by this crisis.

Mr Speaker, I do not wish to make this a political issue. I hope that we can treat it on the basis that there is simply a decision to be made here about support for other communities in need. It is true that we are looking primarily at people outside our borders, but it is not unprecedented for the ACT to donate, and to donate generously, to both national and international appeals arising out of national disasters. That has happened on a number of occasions, and I hope it will happen again.

Taking up the point I raised when I began my remarks: I seek leave to amend my motion to replace 98 per cent with 99 per cent, for the sake of accuracy.

Leave granted.

MR HUMPHRIES: I commend the motion to members.

MR WOOD (Minister for Urban Services, Minister for the Arts and Minister for Disability, Housing and Community Services) (11.14): Mr Speaker, the government understands, and is sympathetic to, the problems faced by rural communities in Australia severely affected by the drought, but we do not support this motion.

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