National Farmers' Federation

Drought-affected farmers’ NZ holidays hit a snag

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) today moved to ensure that Australia’s drought-affected farmers looking to take up the generous offer from New Zealand farmers of free accommodation in New Zealand – along with free flights donated by Jetstar – are fully aware Centrelink will cancel their payments while they are away.
The NFF has been formally advised that any farmer in receipt of Exceptional Circumstance (EC) or Farm Help payments through Centrelink will have their payments terminated for the period they are overseas.
“Once advised of the possibility of payment cancellation, the NFF sought a dispensation for affected farmers through the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, The Hon Peter McGauran MP,” NFF President David Crombie said.
“We had hoped the generous offer from the Federated Farmers of NZ and Jetstar, to provide some respite for our drought-stricken farmers, might yield a reprieve from the Government on what appears to be an overly bureaucratic detail.
“However, we have now been advised that an exemption is not possible.
“While clearly disappointed, our concern now is to ensure that all farmers contemplating taking up the offer of free holidays – so big-heartedly provided by the FFNZ and Jetstar – can make fully-informed decisions as to the benefits of the holiday program for them.”
Minister McGauran’s office has advised:
* The qualifications for the Centrelink payment of income support for drought affected farmers require that to be eligible, farmers must be ‘in Australia’.
* As such, once Centrelink is advised by a farmer that he or she is departing overseas, for any period, payment will be stopped.
* The farmer will need to contact Centrelink on return to Australia. This can be done initially by telephone on 13 23 16 or through the local Centrelink Customer Service Centre.
* Payment can then be regranted quickly, after an abridged claim process.
* Where Family Tax Benefit is being paid, this payment will continue where the absence overseas is less than 13 weeks.
“Many farmers may well make the judgement the free holiday is justified and, therefore, opt to go without payments for the period they will be away… others may not,” Mr Crombie added.
“The important thing is that farm families affected by drought, looking to take advantage of the New Zealanders’ and Jetstar’s offer, need to know that if they are in receipt of EC or Farm Help payments, they will lose them while they are away.”

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