Mr RAMSEY (Grey–Government Whip) (10:45): Sadly, there are regions in South Australia that are starting to use the dreaded d-word, ‘drought’. Rainfall has been patchy. For many it’s okay-on my own farm, in fact, it’s okay-without being outstanding, and it hangs in the balance. Unfortunately, though, there are some large areas, particularly on Eyre Peninsula, that are highly deficient in rainfall. I called a friend this morning in the Minnipa area, and he said he was on decile 2, and for those who don’t understand these rainfall configurations that means it’s in the lowest 20 per cent of all years for rainfall up until the end of May and into June. That is very concerning. It’s not too late to change, and we remain optimistic, but it is certainly getting very concerning.
Some properties in that area are actually looking down the barrel of possibly their third drought-third failure-in four years, even though the one that interspersed it two years ago was a record season. But three years in four is certainly a real challenge. Some properties, particularly on lighter soils, have been sown dry. This has become an increasingly common practice of recent years with the advent of no-till farming, It’s been very successful, that’s why farmers do it, and it’s been a good way of managing soil. But this year it’s fairly bare already, and since the crops have gone in there’s been virtually no rain and a lot of wind in some of these areas, and it is causing a great deal of stress and concern.
I thank the Prime Minister for being engaged on his issue and his firsthand experience from going into western New South Wales a few weeks ago. The government has made some responses since that time and has a number of measures in place. The one that I’m most pleased about, that we legislated in this place 12 months ago, is the increase in the levels for the farm management deposits. It’s a very important tool for farmers and is up to $800,000 per individual now. It allows for farmers to make allowances for droughts themselves, but you’ve got to have a couple of good years under your belt before you can do that. So that’s a huge plus. Farmers can now, since the last budget, access that money early in the case of drought and can offset against interest rates.
We’ve also announced the extra support for the farm financial counselling service, which is very important. People under stress need all the help that they can get, and they need all the help that they can get that doesn’t cost a lot of money. These people can become the best friend of farmers under stress. From 1 July, there is very particularly relevant information for South Australians. They will be able to apply for concessional farm loans through the regional investment bank-previously, we’ve had to do that through our state body and PIRSA. We’ve been incredibly unsuccessful in South Australia and wondered why other states were been able to win support and we hadn’t. So that should be fixed.