A clearly furious Rob Katter expressed his frustration with the Minister of Agriculture, Bill Byrne in Parliament yesterday for his dismissive response to Mr Katter’s plea for a solution to crippling rural debt.
With the Senate failing to progress the Bill for an Australian Reconstruction and Development Board (ARDB), the Member for Mount Isa, Rob Katter sought some buy-in from the Queensland Minister for Agriculture, Bill Byrne during question time in Parliament on Wednesday, but found a distinct lack of support on the issue.
“Approximately 113 drought concessional loans have been allocated in Queensland, despite 80 per cent of the rural areas of the state having the worst conditions ever recorded in Queensland.
“This reflects abject policy failure, as endorsed by the cattle producers I interact with.
“This is not just to help the cattle producers, but to help cash flow come back into the towns as well.
“On this basis will the Minister move immediately towards providing a reconstruction board or like mechanism, given the recent failing of the federal government to deliver the ARDB?” Mr Katter asked.
Minister Byrne replied there was no intention of the Queensland Government to move in that direction, indicating it was a federal issue, and went on to talk about last weekend’s drought meeting in Longreach attended by 300 people.
“I am disappointed at the Minister’s lack of interest in the burgeoning rural debt of Queensland graziers,” Mr Katter said in Parliament on yesterday.
“There is a crisis out there. We jump when there is a cyclone or a flood.
“This is something that has been strangling the people in my electorate for three years now.”
Mr Katter said even if there was rain at the end of the year, people have no money to buy cattle.
“If we are not going to throw any money in exceptional circumstances funding because we do not call it a natural disaster – even though it is – we should at least provide a solution by way of a cost effective reconstruction board as governments have done in the past.
“It is critical we have some solution to the increasing rural debt problem, and if we can’t rely on the Federal Government to supply the solution, let’s at least look at what we can do on a State-wide basis,” Mr Katter said.
“The alternative is seeing more and more family farm units sold off to international investors and foreign owners.
“It’s not enough for the Minister to go to talkfests with federal ministers and senators and come away and do nothing.
“The Minister hasn’t addressed the lack of take up on the drought concessional loans, and that alone should be an area of concern for him.
“With the ARDB we have a workable solution, and nothing else is working for the graziers at the moment,” Mr Katter said
Rural population shrinking
The number of people living in the Mount Isa electorate is declining because of the drought, Rob Katter told Members of Parliament yesterday.
“Grazing is a $4 billion industry and there is no alternate use for this land.
“These towns and their surrounds are dying.
“It is not a matter of these people just selling up and then sitting on a huge super fund; that’s not reality.
“Selling up would create a vortex in property values, and the banks know about it and that is why they are not foreclosing right now.
“This is a very viable industry before the cost of finance.”
Mr Katter said choosing to keep smaller graziers in the industry made sense.
“They have the best land husbandry; they are the best people to look after that land.
“The drought concession loans are useless. Hardly anyone has taken them up and for good reason.”