State KAP leader and member for Traeger Robbie Katter says the banking Royal Commission has shown commercial lenders can’t provide the full suite of products and services that will support the growth of agriculture and regional communities.
“The creation of a Rural Development Bank would lead to accelerated economic development in our regional and rural areas that will flow on to provide job opportunities and private investment in all regional industries,’’ he said.
“Primary production presents a unique set of challenges and we’ve seen from the Banking Royal Commission that the banks can’t, or won’t, provide the products and services that ensure long term sustainability of the industry.
“The banks have taken a big hit and I reckon there is a risk they will scale down lending to the rural sector and regional businesses if they focus activities on industries and areas which better suit their business model.
“The big gap that already exists for funding credible projects and investment opportunities could widen significantly.’’
Mr Katter says if governments continue to rely solely on the private sector to provide capital to agriculture businesses the whole industry will decline and Australia will lose one of its key strategic advantages.
“Agriculture is not the same as other industries, it’s strategically important because it provides us with food security and acts as a fundamental economic pillar that delivers a significant amount of value-adding activity which ensures wealth flows to regional areas,’’ he said.
“Because it is so important to the state and national economy, governments have a role to play ensuring the long term future, and that role should come in the form of providing capital for investment, not token $12,000 handouts.’’
Mr Katter said the Labor Government continued to ignore high unemployment rates and agricultural investment to the point where towns and communities were struggling to stay afloat.
“We’ve heard both Labor and the LNP say they prefer to “leave it to the market” when it comes to supporting primary producers and regional economies,’’ he said.
“If we leave it to the market we won’t have these industries for much longer, we’ve seen dairy and sugar decline significantly because major parties refuse to acknowledge the strategic importance of these industries.
“Other advanced economies, particularly the U.S. and Europe, recognise the strategic importance of agriculture and their governments take steps to protect them.
“For some reason our weak political leaders seem to prefer to let these important industries die a long slow death.
“A Rural Development Bank would be operated by people who understand farming and the importance of the industry.
“Regional businesses will bounce back when the good times return – as long they haven’t been gutted by Sydney and Brisbane accountants crunching numbers and yield percentages.
“When the KAP introduced a Bill into Parliament in 2016 for the creation of a Rural Development Bank is was voted down by both the major parties.
“I think all of our primary producers and regional economies would be in a much better place today if that Bill had been passed and they had received the support they deserved.’’