In the past few weeks I have been in meetings in my electorate and outside with a lot of people in the farming industry.
A couple of weeks ago I met with NSW Farmers Association when it had its poultry meat association meeting in Beresfield, next to my electorate.
I went to Scone and Rouchel Brook to visit the newly re-formed NSW Farmers Association branch. I also met with dairy farmers in the Gloucester area, in addition to some visits in the North Coast.
I put on the record my absolute admiration for our farmers.
As a former business owner, I could see the difficult restructuring that farmers in our community are having to make in their businesses, often with little support from the Government or even from those further up the supply chain.
Many of those are intergenerational family farms that must be continued. A lot of succession planning issues are common to any small family business. For example, a lot of young farmers told me that the issue with trying to buy property from their parents or probably even grandparents is that it is worth far more than what they would have paid for it when they were younger, which creates a lot of issues.
Farmers tell me that it is a disincentive for them to go into the farming sector. It is not just the drought that farmers are having to contend with; it is also things like natural disasters such as bushfires that are wiping out things.
Four years ago, in April 2015, my electorate of Maitland witnessed super storms, which had a devastating impact on our local farmers. I know of two farmers in my electorate who had just started their farming enterprises. One was a young couple who had been doing work off-farm. They were not even eligible for assistance from the Government at the time because they had too much off-farm income—it was not about too much off-farm income; it was no on-farm income.
The same happened with another family. The reality is that those rules are based around stopping an investor who makes a lot of money off a city-fied kind of enterprise from taking advantage of assistance that is meant to be given to 100 per cent farmers.
In reality these people were farmers 100 per cent of the time. When they were not working on their properties they were gaining income through fencing and doing contract work for other farmers. Particularly some older farmers need help to do that.
The other issue is succession planning and how farmers transition out of farming. When they hit really difficult times and when natural disasters occur and assistance is offered, if the farmer is getting money from superannuation or something like that they are not able to access appropriate assistance because they might be getting more superannuation than income from their farm because their capacity to work the farm has reduced. But that means that, even though they have been affected by the same natural disaster as everyone else, they are not able to get back on their feet as quickly.
There are a lot of issues in providing support. There has also been a lot of discussion about the income support and other subsidies. The Government has talked a lot—as we heard in the estimates hearings—about the support that it gives to farmers but a lot of farmers are not eligible for the support.
Today we heard about some of the issues of farming with water, having to pay for fuel and not being able to afford that. It is really difficult for farmers. The Opposition wants to work with the Government, and I think it has shown over time that it will work with the Government on good, positive policies for farmers. Opposition members just want the Government to be able to work with us as well.
I pay tribute to farmers in local communities. I have spoken about the conversations that I have had with the members of the Poultry Industries Association, the farmers at Scone and in the North Coast and Gloucester areas. They are really doing it tough and we all need to make sure that we have policies that are effectively assisting them.