Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Drought assistance extended to more communities

More Australian families affected by the crippling drought can now apply for payments through Centrelink. The Government has extended the areas where help will be available to those suffering a 1 in 20 year drought event and where there is no alternative work. This measure will cover many more people than if we waited for a 1 in 25 year event.

This now means people directly affected by the drought in far greater areas of NSW may be eligible for assistance, along with larger areas of Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and, for the first time, people in the Northern Territory.

Extending the flexible arrangements for accessing income support payments, such as Newstart Allowance to people living in areas suffering the 1 in 20 year drought means support will be available in the areas that need it most.

One of the most important aspects of providing financial help to people is to try and encourage people who may be out of work because of the drought to stay in their local community. We want businesses to stay open so that the communities can rebuild when the situation improves.

Today’s extension builds on the recently announced increased flexibility for the activity test requirements of Newstart Allowance. These initiatives are designed to help people, not only on the land, but those in local businesses who are feeling the effects of the drought.

Centrelink continues to operate its hotline, and people should call 13 23 16 between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday if they need help or advice on what help they might be eligible for.