Focus on backyard battlers
OUTRAGE at the process drought-affected rural and regional Australians have to go through to receive government assistance has sparked a response from One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson.
On her visit to Roma last week, where she attended the Outback Queensland Tourism Awards, Ms Hanson took time to speak to struggling locals, who shared their stories of hardship.
"I was absolutely devastated to hear these stories about these people, who are so young with their whole lives ahead of them,” Ms Hanson said.
"The impact that the drought has had on some people and families, to a point where they've taken their own lives is something I found very distressing.
"It needs a light shone on it, because these are real-life stories.”
Ms Hanson said while metropolitan Australians don't necessarily understand the struggles and pressure that rural Australians faced, it was important for people from the cities to support their regional and rural counterparts by putting more money into the state's tourism.
"We need to get people out of the cities, and instead of going overseas, we're trying to encourage them to travel within their own state.”
"And get out to these rural and regional communities that are really hurting from the drought.”
Although she commended Australians for rallying behind drought-affected farmers, she questioned whether the money was actually making a difference.
"Their plight has been helped by the Australian people who have donated generously and I thank you, and they thank you.”
"But... is the money getting out to the farmers? Because what I'm hearing is 'where's the money?' They're so stressed... they just need that helping hand.”
Venting her frustration with the state of affairs and the government's handling of the drought, Ms Hanson took to Facebook, offering assistance to those struggling, encouraging people to reach out to her office if they needed assistance.
"My office informs me we've had at least 20 calls from people who didn't know where to go for assistance, and we've been able to point them in the right direction.”
Following conversations she has had with locals around the Maranoa and beyond, she found drought-affected farmers had to fill out "pages and pages” of documentation to access government assistance, stating that those hardest hit by the ongoing drought could not do it.
"These bureaucrats and members of parliament don't understand the stress they're actually under.”
"They're not up to filling it out, they don't want to do it, it's the last straw for them, and they're not getting the help they really need.”
Questioning why foreign aid is given out so generously, Ms Hanson said it was unfair for Australians, especially with so many struggling.
"What I find frustrating is here we give straight away after the tsunamis in Indonesia, we hand over half a million dollars, followed by another five...
"Where's their paperwork? How do we know where their accountability is, we don't expect it from them, so why do we put our own people under that pressure.
"I just don't think it's handled correctly.”
Moving forward, Ms Hanson said best practice was to take what she experienced while in Roma back to Canberra, and talk to necessary ministers and senators, including member for the Maranoa, David Littleproud, who is also the Minister for Agriculture.
"I had a brief discussion with David Littleproud while in Roma, and I told him we have to have a meeting this week when we're back in Canberra.”
"It's something that needs to be done straight away, people want action now.
"Especially with the mental health problem in rural and regional Australia, it is so distressing and needs to be dealt with.”
While in Roma, Ms Hanson also met with Maranoa Mayor Tyson Golder, with whom she discussed various issues in the community, before she headed out to the clay target shoot, which was organised as a fundraiser in conjunction with the Lions Club.
"I've never done it (clay target) before, I was pleased that I hit a few targets.”
"I believe they raised over $6000 for drought relief, which was a fantastic effort.”