THE Australian Greens say this week’s federal budget produced a disappointing result for farming and rural communities.
Greens leader and Tasmanian Senator Christine Milne said the overall budget was “a big disappointment” with Australians anticipating some vision from the government’s financials.
“Far from being a stronger smarter and fairer Australia, what this budget delivers is a weaker, dumber, meaner Australia,” she said.
Senator Milne said the government’s major fail was revenue shortfall from the mining tax with only $200 million delivered, when $3 billion was anticipated in last year’s budget.
That’s resulted in $2.3 billion being slashed from university education funding and the loss of $1 billion from renewable energy and environmental programs.
Senator Milne said there was also minimal reference to the farming community which would be “disappointed” with $2.1 billion Caring for our Country program being “slashed”, with $141.5 million redirected to fund the Farm Household Allowance, Tasmanian Forestry Agreement and EPBC Water Trigger Bill for CSG and coal mining.
However, she praised the government’s moves to introduce $99.4 million Farm Household Allowance to support farmers in hardship under National Drought Program Reform program.
Greens Agriculture spokesperson and WA Senator Rachel Siewert said the drought assistance was “an essential and welcome inclusion in the budget”.
But she said the government should not have made cuts to Caring for our Country to pay for it.
“I am concerned that Caring for our Country is being used as a cash cow for other programs, when this and other programs really need the investment of new money,” she said to Fairfax Agricultural Media.
“Cutting money from Caring for our Country reduces our Natural Resource Management capacity across the board, including in the aspects of natural resource management that are essential to helping farming industries remain sustainable into the future.
“Effective natural resource management and strong drought assistance are complimentary approaches and as a result, both deserve new investments.”
Senator Siewert said the Greens also recognised the fact that the drought assistance package needs to deal with climate variability, in order to better support the sector over the long term.
“We know that farmers are already under pressure and that is why immediate assistance is so critical,” she said.
“It is important that this package also delivers strong mechanisms to support farmers and communities to address challenges such as climate change, which will continue to intensify in coming years.”