FEDERAL Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch has condemned two NSW rural MPs for failing to support his bid to assist graziers stricken by last year’s ban on live cattle exports.
Mr Entsch put up a Private Members’ Motion earlier this year after Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig refused his request to temporarily re-open the application period for Business Assistance Payments.
Mr Entsch had contacted the Minister after being approached by numerous graziers and associated businesses who had missed out on the payments, a result of receiving incorrect information from Centrelink, missing the deadline or being confused as to whether they were eligible.
“I wrote to the Minister because there were clearly some issues with the application process,” Mr Entsch explained.
“The people who contacted me felt extremely hard done by not only had they firstly been betrayed by seeing their cattle mistreated, but then their government – in a knee-jerk reaction – totally shut down their industry.
“Then, on top of that, they missed out on the little financial assistance that was available to them. It certainly wouldn’t have saved anyone from bankruptcy but may well have helped with some short-term bills reducing some of the stress they were facing.”
Mr Entsch said he was extremely disappointed when he received the Minister’s response, which said;
“I am aware that the communities affected by cyclone Yasi continue to face challenges. However, the 12-week period for submission of applications for the Business Assistance Package was considered sufficient…”
The resulting motion which was backed by Coalition MPs – called on the House to;
(1) note the profound financial impact on graziers and associated businesses by the Government’s decision to ban live cattle exports to Indonesia on 7 June 2011;
(2) acknowledge that due to Government maladministration:
(a) the criteria outline in the Business Assistance Payments program offered to affected graziers and businesses contained ambiguous wording and was confusing for applicants;
(b) Centrelink staff who advised on applications for the Business Assistance Payments program offered inaccurate advice to eligible applicants; and
(c) applicants who met the criteria missed the deadline for the program because they were misinformed about their eligibility; and
(3) condemn the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for:
(a) refusing to extend the Business Assistance Payments program to assist affected farmers and businesses who experienced financial losses as a direct result of the live export ban; and
(b) his poor handling of the issue, which has led to financial losses in the cattle industry.
However, when it came to the vote in parliament yesterday morning (THUR), the tally was 70 ayes to 72 noes, with Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor voting with the government.
“I’m bitterly disappointed that the two NSW rural independents voted against this,” Mr Entsch said.
“If they had supported it, it would have gone some way towards putting pressure on the Minister to revisit his decision not to give graziers another opportunity to access the $25,000 support payment.
“But for some reason they chose not to, despite graziers and related businesses in their region being equally affected by this ban. They obviously decided to toe the Labor party line instead of doing what was best for their constituents.”