The Tasmanian Government has been behind well the eight-ball when it comes to providing assistance to farmers and landowners who are adversely affected by natural disasters, Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck and State Shadow Minister for Primary Industries and Water Rene Hidding said today.
Senator Colbeck and Mr Hidding visited property owners in the Epping Forest and Powranna areas today following costly fires which ravaged the district last week.
"This lack of preparedness has been brought into the spotlight in the last 12 months as pockets of this State have been hit with droughts, frosts, fires, hail and rain storms.
"After 10 years, the State Government is clearly out of puff.
Tasmania's farmers have been doing it tough now for quite some time, yet the State Government has been sitting on its hands, telling farmers that they'll do something 'soon'. That's just not good enough.
"Our farmers are resilient and are battling through but it's demoralising when they are also up against a State Government that won't meet its responsibilities.
"The recent fire at Epping Forest is a classic example. The State Government couldn't even organise to mow the grass on its roadside land. The result has been that farmers will have to replace kilometres of fencing when they already have enough to do.' Mr Hidding said.
"The State Government has sat back and allowed the Commonwealth to do all the hard work in providing Exceptional Circumstances help for Tasmania's drought-stricken farmers where every other Australian State Government has had drought policies and emergency plans in place for natural disasters and therefore is ready to respond when emergencies arise,' Senator Colbeck said.
"And when communities are experiencing drought, they are also at much greater risk of events such as fires, and of weakened crops being damaged by inclement weather events.
"But here in Tasmania what we continually see is the State Government putting together ad hoc responses well after the horse has bolted.
Senator Colbeck said Tasmanian farmers were also being let down by their Federal Labor MPs who were completely ignoring the rural sector in this State.
"Lyons MP Dick Adams, for example, is nowhere to be seen and has cannot even bring himself to come out in support of the Epping Forest residents who last week battled fire up to their back doorsteps.
"Our farmers, like those around the country, are about to really feel the pinch of the global financial crisis with commodity prices slipping lower every day. And this crisis comes on the back of one of the worst drought periods in Australia's modern history.
"Exceptional Circumstances (EC) assistance expires on March 31 and I urge the Federal Government not to delay its announcements on extensions of EC for drought-affected areas," Senator Colbeck said.