Some people may be tired of hearing about it, but the fact is a drought affects not only farmers but whole communities.
It is for that reason I continue to raise the issue of the drought with the Liberal National Government.
After pressuring the Government to act on this crisis, they responded reluctantly by introducing freight subsidies and later introduced a cessation on Local Land Service Rates.
Both were measures I sought on behalf of drought-affected primary producers.
I later sought modifications to the subsidy criteria for freight of fodder, so that primary producers could access financial assistance for transporting fodder purchased from interstate.
Many farmers no longer have the financial means to pay for goods and services to the degree that they did before the drought.Phil Donato
Once again the Government responded reluctantly, rather than taking any initiative.
I have now reminded the Government many farmers and their families are still suffering-both financially and psychologically, as are many people in their communities whose livelihoods are directly or indirectly impacted.
There is more that can be done; the plight of farmers is unnecessarily exacerbated by unreasonable limitations, thresholds and criteria preventing their access to financial assistance.
Farmers report they have been deemed ineligible for Rural Assistance Authority loans, farm household assistance benefits and disaster relief funding and loans, in spite of support from rural financial counsellors demonstrating an ability for applicants to maintain a loan.
The knock-on effects are clear. Many farmers no longer have the financial means to pay for goods and services to the degree that they did before the drought.
Discretionary spending at restaurants and pubs, and for leisure activities, has all but ceased for many of them.
The result is many businesses in rural townships are closing or having to let staff go because they no longer generate enough business to pay them.
Indeed, some of those newly unemployed are having to withdraw their children from school to leave their town in search of work opportunities.
Those students may well have been needed to retain a teacher employed at the school or, indeed, to keep the doors of the school open.
The solution I have suggested to the drought's financial impacts is the immediate and direct injection of government funds into our drought-affected communities.
Earlier this year I asked the Government if they would immediately initiate a bias towards rural and regional businesses that submit tenders for regional government procurement contracts.
This would maintain local employment and assist country-based businesses to remain economically viable and sustainable during the drought and the consequential economic downturn.
This Government holds the purse strings to money that could keep people employed and businesses afloat, and that could help save our rural and regional townships from financial doom.Phil Donato
Did the Government listen? I have since learned it awarded government procurement contracts to interstate companies for construction of overtaking lanes on the Newell Highway.
Neither local councils nor local business were given the opportunity to tender for the projects.
The Government was complicit in sending NSW taxpayer dollars to profit interstate businesses instead of employing locals and keeping desperately needed money in our regional and rural drought-stricken communities.
This Government holds the purse strings to money that could keep people employed and businesses afloat, and that could help save our rural and regional townships from financial doom.
It is not the job of charities to sustain the people of the bush. The Government could, if it wanted, deliver rural and regional communities the billions of dollars it owes the people of the bush in unpaid Restart NSW funds for infrastructure projects.
It is time for the Government to once again listen to the people of the bush. This Government can do more and it must do more now.
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