darren.chester.mp@aph.gov.au 1300 131 785
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The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has welcomed the establishment of a taskforce to find new ways to help farmers and small businesses in drought-affected areas.

Mr Chester said the new Drought Finance Taskforce was part of the Federal Government’s support for farmers and local businesses to keep towns and communities economically strong.

“The nation’s attention has been focused on the dry conditions in Queensland and New South Wales, but Gippslanders know the drought is here, too,” Mr Chester said.  “Like their interstate counterparts, farmers across Gippsland need access to a range of support measures.

“I wrote to the Prime Minister in August to ask for all Ministers with a portfolio capacity to respond to the drought and community recovery activities.

“The new Drought Finance Taskforce is a welcome response to my request. It has been set up to make sure the Federal Government can respond quickly and appropriately to the changing needs of drought-affected farmers and small businesses.”

The Drought Finance Taskforce will include the Treasurer, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and senior representatives from the National Farmers Federation (NFF) and the big banks.

The taskforce will:
 leverage government, business and industry resources to further determine the impact of the drought on farmers and local small businesses;
 establish mechanisms to share insights in a timely manner; and
 advise the government, bank CEOs and the NFF on drought impacts and measures to help alleviate the impact on farmers and local small businesses.

Mr Chester said the taskforce was another way for government, business and industry to work together and ensure they were receiving up-to-date drought information and were responsive, so appropriate support was received quickly.

“We want to help our farming communities and the businesses who depend on them to remain strong and prosperous,” Mr Chester said.

“We want to help them through this drought and work to make sure their recovery and return to normal operations is as swift as possible.”

Meanwhile, Mr Chester met with the chief executive of Gippsland Farmer Relief Melissa Ferguson at the charity’s Traralgon warehouse, where food hampers are prepared for distribution to farming families across Gippsland.

“Melissa’s achievements to date have been extraordinary. Her drive and commitment to helping our farmers as they confront these difficult times is inspiring,” Mr Chester said.

“Unfortunately, demand for help from Gippsland Farmer Relief has doubled and is the highest around Yarram and East Gippsland.

“In the east, Gippsland Farmer Relief is helping between 50 and 60 families, who are accepting hampers of groceries so they can spend their money on fodder for their livestock.

“While the grey skies over Gippsland this week are welcome, no-one should think the rain that has fallen has done much to lessen the crisis.

“I want to encourage everybody to do what they can to help out, whether is volunteering your time, donating money or buying a sausage at a fundraising stall.”

Anyone who would like to help Gippsland Farmer Relief or refer someone for help can call 5174 0217 or visit www.gippslandfarmerrelief.com.au.

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