Financial counsellor funding a mere drop, says Katter

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MEMBER for Mount Isa Robbie Katter says more needs to be done in rural Queensland to help the agriculture industry, with figures showing the state’s producers are being short-changed. The State Member for Mount Isa has questioned the State Government’s commitment to boosting services in rural areas with two of the country’s smaller states afforded more rural financial counsellors.

It comes after the State Government announced it was boosting funding for the rural financial counsellors run by the Federal Government. “Queensland has a land mass size almost eight times large than Victoria but has less rural financial counsellors, a boost of $75,000 into the federal pool is merely a drop,” Mr Katter said. “Queensland also has a land mass size more than twice the size of New South Wales but has 10 less rural financial counsellors.” “Our state is 86% drought declared so if there’s a state topping the list for rural financial counsellors, it should be Queensland.” Victoria has 26 rural financial councillors and New South Wales has 33, compared to Queensland’s 23.

Mr Katter toured the North West this week and visited properties affected by the drought and policy failure. “Despite some parts of the region receiving some welcome rainfall, there are many still facing significant drought for the fourth consecutive year,” he said.
“Our producers are some of the most resilient, but they are doing it very tough and need more support from the Government.”
“Even though some have received useful rain, many were completely de-stocked meaning they will be without an income for years to come.”

During the tour, Mr Katter heard of the hardships related to the drought and the difficulties experienced by many applying for Government assistance. “We need the industry to be going forwards and thriving, not going backwards – these counsellors act as a real and practical support for these businesses,” he said.
“It would be a tragedy if we continued to lose those who have kept the legacy of the family farm alive.” “Nobody does agriculture more passionately or productively than our family-owned farms.”
“They are best practice producers, they spend their money in our towns, and they add so much to the social fabric of our rural communities.”

Incentives were needed to stimulate the industry and give producers confidence in the future of agriculture.
“Our food producers are some of the most efficient and effective in the world and they need to be recognised as viable businesses,” Mr Katter said. “Unfortunately they have been failed by the live export ban of 2011, leaving them in a precarious position when the drought compounded their situation.” “We need the fundamentals of the industry to be in order to lay a platform for the next generation of producers.” Mr Katter chaired the rural Debt and Drought Taskforce which is set to release its recommendations later this month.

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