New Federal Focus to Drought Relief

An announcement is expected today from Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg establishing a new Drought Taskforce that will work with banks and the National Farmers Federation.

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Mr Frydenberg will chair the taskforce and says its key objective are to keep local economies strong and help relieve stress for families.

As part of the plan, the Big Four banks are expected to give small business in drought-declared areas a holiday from credit card and mortgage repayments.

Banks already pause credit card and mortgage repayments for farmers in drought-declared areas and it is understood these moves could see an extension of that policy to small businesses.

The Taskforce will also aim to fast-track infrastructure projects and grants for struggling towns.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says that small business in regional and rural towns, like farmers, are at the mercy of drought and Drought envoy Barnaby Joyce says bank interest rates are still too high.

Mr Joyce says the Government’s Regional Investment Corporation is also open to farmers who needed concessional loans but there needs to be help for contractors working in drought areas.

“Even after it rains (banks need to know) there’s no cashflow until you can turn grass into protein or paddock into grain.”