The current review of the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme (DRAS) is an opportunity for the Government to address the gaps revealed by harsh experience in Queensland’s Central West said Gregory MP Lachlan Millar.
Mr Millar said he had made a submission to the Agriculture and Environment Committee’s Review of the DRAS arguing for the extension of relief to small business in drought-affected regions.
“Currently, there is absolutely no recognition of small business in the Scheme and in the western part of Gregory we are experiencing a crisis in the local economies due to the impact of drought on local cash flows. It concerns me that we are allowing a toxic legacy to develop which will impede our ability to recover when the drought breaks,” said Mr Millar.
“I have written a submission to the Committee arguing that assistance could and should be offered to small business in the form of reductions or moratoriums on government charges such as electricity, water and government business transaction charges in drought-affected communities,” he said.
“The modern approach to disaster management emphasises building social resilience. Small business is the foundation of our community resilience in western Queensland and if it collapses, it will be extremely difficult to rebuild,” said Mr Millar.
“Extending assistance to drought-affected small business would offer them a chance of outlasting the drought. The alternative is to see drought create a toxic legacy of empty shops and deserted towns, as small business closes or is forced into bankruptcy. Rain will not restore these losses and I believe the Government should be practising prevention so that when rain does come, communities can start to rebuild,” said Mr Millar.
Mr Millar said he had also asked the Committee to consider allowing pastoralists to use DRAS funds to de-silt dams.
“The extended dry gives one blessing and that is the opportunity to de-silt dams. Undertaking this kind of constructive work is good for mental health and is an investment in improved water management when the drought breaks,” he said.
Public Submissions have been invited by the Committee and can be emailed to [email protected] or posted to the Research Director, Agriculture and Environment Committee, Queensland Parliament, George Street, Brisbane Q 4000. To find out more about the review, click on this link Queensland Parliament .