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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 12 Hansard (13 November) . . Page.. 3500 ..

MR WOOD (continuing):

Any declaration of drought in the ACT will allow rural lessees to more easily claim certain taxation benefits, such as income averaging in the event of forced sale of stock, and recovery of farm management deposits. It does not imply that territory government assistance will be provided.

Actions taken by ACT government land managers to assist rural lessees through this difficult period are probably modest. They include making land currently in reserves available for stock agistment as a drought relief measure. Short-term agistment will be allowed in reserves where conservation values will not suffer long-term degradation.

While the ACT government is supportive of the principle of providing financial help to people in crisis, rural leaseholders in the ACT are not perceived to be in the same position as farmers in other parts of the country, as they generally-not always-have income additional to revenues generated from their farm activities. If people in the ACT want to contribute directly to the Farmhand appeal, as many have done, they may do so.

Nationally, we play our role in the Primary Industries Ministerial Council, which is concerned about drought and has been resolving issues associated with funding under the exceptional circumstances program. We have been attempting to resolve issues through ministerial councils. The Opposition Leader might contact his federal colleagues, because the rural community is distinctly unhappy, to put it very mildly, about the time the Commonwealth government is taking in moving on the exceptional circumstances program. It seems that circumstances have to be so exceptional that they may never happen. There is great discontent, as Mr Humphries would know, in rural communities about the slowness of the federal government. It is remarkable that the federal government should announce a large contribution to Farmhand and yet not look at the exceptional circumstances program.

Mr Humphries: They have.

MR WOOD: What have they done, Mr Humphries?

Mr Humphries: They have announced that they are going to treble it or quintuple it.

MR WOOD: They said they will, but what have they done?

Mrs Dunne: It is being announced today. Why don't you catch up on the news?

MR WOOD: It is being announced today? It will not be before time then. I wait with interest to hear it announced.

Mrs Dunne: And you are not making any announcement about any.

MR WOOD: No, that is dead right. We play our role at the national level, but locally we will do what New South Wales does and attend to local needs. We do not believe it is necessary for the ACT government to make a donation across the border in these circumstances. As I have heard it said and as Mr Humphries has explained, we have no small number of urgent priorities in the ACT. That is where we would be looking to make any special payments.

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