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Commonsense wins out in farmers’ free NZ holiday offer

1 March 2007

AUSTRALIA'S drought-affected farmers will be relieved at news they will not be penalised by the loss of drought assistance payments if they take up the offer of free holidays in – and free flights to – New Zealand.

Overnight the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, The Hon Peter McGauran MP, indicated the Australian Government would 'come to the party' in ensuring drought-affected farmers will not be "out-of-pocket" as a result of "rigid rules".

"We congratulate the Minister on his rapid and creative approach to resolving this matter," NFF President David Crombie said. "Had Australia's drought-stricken farmers lost their Exceptional Circumstance payments in taking-up the generous offer of free accommodation from New Zealand farmers – and Jestar's free flights – it could have been a 'deal breaker' for those doing it toughest.

"We greatly appreciate the support, assistance and goodwill of the Federated Farmers of New Zealand and Jetstar in making this much-needed relief available to Australian farmers.

"Not only does drought cause economic hardship, but is takes a massive social toll as well. The offer from New Zealand farmers and Jetstar could provide a very important circuit breaker to relieve the pressure on our drought-stricken farm families.

"The Australian Government throwing its support behind the project, ensuring farm families will not be worse off, is the icing on the cake.

"When times are tough farm communities stick together, and we appreciate our NZ counterparts’ understanding and outstanding generosity very much. It is one of the best examples of the ANZAC tradition… digging in and giving each other a hand when it’s needed most.

"Australian and New Zealand farmers share many bonds – together we’re the most self-sufficient farming sectors in the world. We’re proud of that record and relieved the Australian Government has acted to ensure the free holiday program will be a success.

"We know our friends in New Zealand well and have worked with them closely for many years on issues such as global trade reform. We’re fierce competitors on the world stage, but when the chips are down our mutual respect and admiration always shines through. We cannot commend them and Jetstar enough for their generosity."

The NFF has received an overwhelming response to the offer of free accommodation in New Zealand – the first 100 of whom will receive free flights courtesy of Jetstar. Affected farm families are being encouraged to contact the Office of Minister McGauran to make the necessary arrangements to ensure there is no financial loss while they are in New Zealand.

[ENDS]

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250

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