Fighting for farmers

By PETER ELLEM

NATIONALS MPs Ian Causley and Luke Hartsuyker a year ago personally convinced Prime Minister John Howard to give hundreds of North Coast farmers fairer access to the age pension.

Mr Causley yesterday said the Howard Government's decision to fix an anomaly on 'curtilage' rules would be a huge boost to about 300 farming households in Page.

From January next year, 10,000 retired Australian farmers and those living on farms over two hectares will have their land excluded from the age pension assets test.

This is provided they can show a long attachment (20 years or more) to their property. The rule change will cost Treasury an estimated $173million a year.

Mr Causley and Mr Hartsuyker revealed they had been lobbying on behalf of a growing number of rural constituents for more than five years.

These were elderly farming couples who could no longer physically work their properties but who had seen the values of their large coastal acreages skyrocket during the property boom.

The MPs long had argued it was absurd that a Sydney pensioner's multi-million mansion could be exempted from the pensions assets test while farms were not exempt, denying access to all or part of the pension.

Mr Causley and Mr Hartsuyker said that in one of the most generous budgets handed down in 20 years, the Nationals were proud to have secured $160million in new funding for the Pacific Highway upgrade to June 2009, and a doubling of local and rural roads funding to $600million.

Pacific Highway Taskforce chairman Cr Ernie Bennett and NRMA president Alan Evans welcomed the $160million as 'a good down payment'.



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