NSW government takes the cheese, announcing $50 million mouse plague support
The NSW Opposition has told FlowNews24 on the Thursday morning of a snap mouse plague relief package that the state government had presided over an 'appalling dereliction of duty' in taking this long to provide support.
On Thursday it emerged that the government would provide a support package to provide rebates and free bait for farmers to fight against the spreading mouse plague.
Ms Aitchison's comments in full are in the FlowNews24 podcast player below, the article continues further on.
Ms Aitchison said:
"It's absolutely extraordinary what's gone on this week in parliament with the NSW Nationals.
"On Tuesday they said we didn't need to throw money at the mouse plague. They attacked the NSW Farmers and Country Women's Association for asking for assistance.
"On Wednesday they doubled down on that attack saying their calls for assistance were a PR stunt.
"Today they announced this package which they themselves said will take a couple of weeks to get off the ground.
"That is just appalling dereliction of duty on their part, I believe.
"The government saying that it was too hard for them to get to is pretty appalling behaviour and I think it just speaks to a complete lack of respect for NSW farmers and the CWA and also just a complete desire to ignore the concerns of people in the bush."
Thursday's snap emergency funding announcement came after the Deputy Premier accused the NSW Farmers and Country Women's Association of 'playing politics' and 'jumping in front of the microphone' in the wake of a Tuesday parliamentary briefing at Parliament House, that no government representatives attended.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said that all government members were tied up in a mandatory meeting at the time, and couldn't attend.
A delegation met with Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall later that day.
A survey of 1100 farmers across NSW found some have already spent more than $150,000 on baiting to kill the animals, while others had lost more than $250,000 worth of grain and fodder.
During question time in parliament on Wednesday, National Party leader and deputy premier John Barilaro suggested the meeting was intentionally timed to create outrage, telling parliament:
"When it comes to NSW Farmers, they've had an open door to ministers of this government.
"All they had to do was change that time slot... but they chose not to."
Mr Barilaro said chief executive Peter Arkle instead "jumped in front of the camera" to politicise the issue:
"Guess what - he's playing politics.
"He's got my mobile number and he hasn't spoken to me about that issue."
But NSW Farmers says it never received a request to move the meeting, saying in a statement:
"Suggestions that this was politically motivated are offensive to the families, businesses and communities who are enduring immense stress and hardship in the face of unprecedented mouse numbers."
In a statement released on Thursday, the NSW Farmers' James Jackson expressed relief at the funding being released:
“Some farmers have outlaid up to $150,000 on baiting already, and we’ve seen lost grain fodder and damage to farm machinery, not to mention the stress that has accumulated on top of bushfires, drought and COVID-19.
“Today’s announcement has been acknowledgement from the government that this is a crisis.”
“Rural residents have been forced to endure the impacts of this plague, and our recent survey on the matter shows the immense toll it has had on people’s health and wellbeing. Communities are at their wits end.”
“We look forward to discussing these measures with Minister Marshall to find out where the bait stations will be located and opportunities to retrospectively reimburse farmers who have spent tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in baits.”
“A smooth and timely rollout is essential, especially when winter crop planting is underway.”
The Chief Executive Officer of the Country Women’s Association of NSW (CWA of NSW) Danica Leys said in a joint statement with NSW Farmers that the plague is the latest challenge for regional communities.
“This plague is not just an economic crisis, it is turning into a health crisis. From mice contaminating food and water, to human diseases spread by mice, the plague is affecting more than crops. This is not to mention the stress the plague is causing.
“There’s no respite when your home is being invaded by mice.”
-- with AAP