First the sports rorts scandal now its the turn for drought affected communities to question how Federal funding is allocated

Poor old Singleton Local Government Area (LGA) we give governments so much but they never seem to return the favour.

Both state and federal governments repeatedly tell us how important our region is to the economy and we know that we provided $340 million in state mining royalties last financial year and national coal exports are worth $67 billion in 2018 - Singleton being home to 14 coal mines.

So given our importance to state and national economy why do we continue to be overlook whether it be state Resources for Regions funding or Federal drought assistance.

In the latest round of Federal drought funding announcements which saw 52 new local government areas included in the Drought Communities Program Extension program making available $1 million in grant funding for drought-affected councils, or $500,000 for smaller LGAs - Singleton was once again excluded.

For the record Singleton is a farming region that has an output of $161 million plus annually and contributes 455 direct jobs.

So the question is why does Singleton Council continue to miss out on Federal funding ?

Are we witnessing a type of rorting of the funding program similar to the sports grants scandal that has the Federal Government awaiting the outcome of two reviews into the probity of the then Sport Minister Senator Bridget McKenzie's actions in selecting who received funding and who did not.

If the drought funding for local councils includes a standard for the percentage of agricultural workers within the LGA why did Port Pirie in South Australia and Latrobe in Victoria with a smaller percentage than Singleton gain the DPC funding.

Figures used on agricultural participation also seem to vary with one set having Singleton's at 3.8 per cent and the other at 11.1 per cent.

Even the rainfall figures for Singleton were below other LGAs that received funding.

If the main reason for Singleton's omission from drought assistance lies in how the Government assesses a local government area: it not only measures drought status and rainfall, but requires 17 per cent share of the workforce to be agricultural workers - why did other LGAs with a lower agriculture workforce receive the funding?

It must also be remembered that an estimated 10,000 mine workers drive-in and drive-out of the shire each day which would have a significant impact on these figures if this was taken into account.

Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon's office sent off a query to Parliamentary Library regarding the ABS numbers quoted in Senate Estimates in relation to an employment-related component of eligibility criteria for the Drought Communities Program - Extension.

Their response was "After reviewing the programme's public information on eligibility criteria, it is difficult to confirm the source of the figures, or the methodology used. As we understand from the Estimates session, these components include rainfall, population, employment."

Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon

Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Hunter MP Joel Fitzgibbon

Mr Fitzgibbon described the decision to exclude Singleton yet again as another slap in the face to Hunter Valley farming communities.

"Singleton is the same country as Muswellbrook, with the same climate and the same drought. They are separated only by a line on the map," said Mr Fitzgibbon

"The local government areas in the latest DCP announcement have all been in drought for a year so they should have been included in last year's Drought Communities Program announcements. Singleton should have been included at the same time as Muswellbrook.

"The drought response from this Government has been ad hoc which has left farming communities confused."

Mr Fitzgibbon said he would continue to advocate for Singleton to be included in DCP funding, and he said the exclusion highlighted the lack of an over-arching plan for drought and agriculture.

"This Government has been in power since 2013 and there has been many warnings over the years from the Bureau about low soil moisture, rainfall deficiency and drought. With thirty-five council areas in Western Australia now included in the Drought Communities Program the Morrison Governments needs a cohesive, national strategy for drought-affected agriculture."