LIBERAL National Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch last week criticised rural Independent MPs Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott for failing to support his bid to extend compensation payments to assist graziers stricken by the federal government’s live cattle ban last year.
Mr Entsch raised a Private Members’ Motion earlier this year after the Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig refused his request to temporarily re-open the application period for Business Assistance Payments.
The payments formed part of the government’s $100 million compensation and business assistance packages to assist those suffering financial and social hardships as a result of the trade ban.
Mr Entsch said he contacted the Minister after being approached by graziers and associated businesses who missed out on assistance payments as 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 said.
“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 totally shut down their industry.
“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 and reducing some of the stress they were facing.”
Mr Entsch said he was extremely disappointed when he received the Minister’s response.
In it, the Minister said, “The 12-week period for submission of applications for the Business Assistance Package was considered sufficient.”
Mr Entsch said his motion was backed by Coalition MPs and Independent MP Bob Katter.
However, it also asked the House of Representatives to acknowledge assistance payments were necessary while also condemning the Agriculture Minister for not extending the payments as well as his “poor handling of the issue”.
The end vote saw Mr Oakeshott and Mr Windsor voting with the government and Mr Entsch said he was “bitterly disappointed” the two NSW rural independents voted against his proposal.
He said their support would have been helpful in pressuring the Minister to reconsider his decision not to extend the $25,000 support payments.
“They obviously decided to toe the Labor party line instead of doing what was best for their constituents.”
Mr Entsch said graziers affected by the suspension in Mr Windsor’s electorate would have benefited from the payments and said he didn’t blame Centrelink for the misleading information as graziers and other affected businesses had been by advisers “in good faith” they weren’t entitled to the money.
“I’ve tried to get the Minister to extend the assistance because people have now realised Centrelink’s initial advice was flawed but that’s fallen on deaf ears,” he said.
“The issue is not resolved by a long way and the lack of assistance is only making things harder for our beef industry, especially for the smaller operations.”
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