Pastoralist Lachlan Gall stands at the bottom of one of his empty dams on his property at Langawirra Station north of Broken Hill, NSW.

Claim that drought-affected farmers get less in government assistance than Manus Island detainees is false

FactCheck August 14, 2019

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from August 5, 2018 by Take Back Australia. The post compared the amount of government compensation paid to asylum seekers detained on Manus Island with the amount of assistance paid to drought-affected farmers.

A Facebook post from August 5, 2018 claims refugees on Manus Island receive more in compensation from the Australian government than drought-affected farmers.

The top image shows a man wearing white earphones gesturing towards a beach behind him. Text overlaid on the image reads: “$35,000+ The amount of compensation each ‘refugee’ on Manus Island received for trying to enter our country illegally”. The bottom image shows a farmer kneeling in a dry dirt field. Text on that image reads: “$12,000 The amount of compensation each farmer who has suffered through years of drought will receive”.  At the bottom of the post, a headline reads: “What a Joke!”.

The Take Back Australia Facebook page has over 23,000 likes and states: “It’s been long enough sitting on the sidelines and ignoring what’s happening to our great Country. It’s time to fight just like our diggers fought for our (sic)”. 

The post had been shared more than 6,800 times and attracted more than 150 comments and 620 reactions.

The Analysis

A class action on behalf of Manus Island detainees was brought against the Australian government and two subcontracted service providers in the Victorian Supreme Court in 2017. The class action claimed detainees were illegally detained and kept in conditions that did not meet Australian standards. The claim related to detainees kept on Manus Island between 2012 and 2016. 

The government settled the case in 2018, paying out $70 million in compensation.

A farmer on a drought-affected property in central NSW, Australia.

Of 1,923 eligible detainees, 1693 people registered to claim their portion of the payout.

AAP FactCheck calculated that if the full amount was shared among all eligible detainees each could have received approximately $36,400. However individual payments ranged from a few thousand dollars to almost $100,000.

For Australian farmers affected by drought, federal government income support is available to farmers suffering financial hardship, including from drought, through the Farm Household Allowance. The Commonwealth government introduced the Farm Household Allowance in 2014, replacing a number of financial supports previously available. Farm Household Allowance was originally available for up to three years and in 2018 the Agricultural and Water Resources Minister, David Littleproud, announced the government would extend the time limit to receive the allowance to four years.

Under the Farm Household Allowance Scheme, farmers are eligible for a fortnightly payment, equal to the relevant Newstart or Youth Allowance rate, for up to four years. Eligibility is subject to an assets and circumstances test. Farmers are also eligible for an Activity Supplement up to $4,000 to pay for study, training or professional advice about their financial situation and they have access to a Farm Household Case Officer.

A federal Department of Agriculture spokesperson told AAP FactCheck a supplementary lump sum payment of up to $7,200 for single farmers and $12,000 for farming couples was available from September 1, 2018 to June 1, 2019. The payment was distributed in two lump sums.

Through Farm Household Allowance and the supplement, a single farmer with no children, for example, could receive up to $68,992.80 spread over four years. This is composed of a $555.70 fortnightly payment, a one-off $4,000 activity supplement and a $7,200 supplement lump sum. After June 1, a single farmer would not receive the $7,200 lump sum – meaning the total available over four years could be up to $61,792.80. 

For a farmer with dependent children, the fortnightly payment is $601.10. Combined with a one-off activity supplement of $4,000 and a $7,200 supplement if before June 1, the total received over four years could be up to $73,714.40. After June 1, the $7,200 lump sum would not be available, taking the total over four years to a maximum of $66,514.40.

For a farming couple, from September 1, 2018 to June 1, 2019, they could together receive up to $124,353.60 over four years. The couple could receive up to $501.70 each or a total $1003.40 every fortnight, a $4000 activity supplement each and a combined $12,000 supplement lump sum. After June 1, 2019, a farming couple could receive up to  $112,353.60 over four years.

The detainees compensated by the Australian government received a one-off compensation settlement ordered by a court and equal to an average of $36,400, with individual amounts varying greatly. 

The amount of drought hardship assistance available to Australian farmers is greater, subject to assessment of the individual farmer’s situation. Farming couples were eligible for a one-off $12,000 payment, as the Facebook post states, before June 1, 2019, however that was a supplement to other support that remains available.

The Verdict 

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found Take Back Australia’s post to be false.  A payment of “$35,000 +” has not been made to each refugee on Manus Island “for trying to enter our country illegally”, as the post claims. Payments made to any Manus Island detainees that are close to this sum in value relate to an average of payments made to those people eligible for the federal government’s settlement of the class action. Payments ranged between a few thousand dollars to $100,000. The post also underrepresents the financial help available to drought-affected farmers from the federal government, which is greater than $12,000.  

  • False – The Facebook post is false.

 First published August 14, 2019 14:28 AEST

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