12 July 2013: KAP Federal Leader and Member for Kennedy Bob Katter has urged people to apply quickly for $420 million of funding for farmers in crisis across Australia, following an end to almost three months of “playing politics” since the Federal Government announced the debt relief program in North Queensland in April.

But Mr Katter warned that the scheme was “no magic pudding” and said further discussions would be sought with the Prime Minister regarding bypassing the states with the national reconstruction board approach, for which Mr Katter has introduced legislation to Parliament in line with resolutions at the Rural Debt Roundtable in Brisbane and Cattle Crisis Summit in North Qld.

“Whilst they have finally come on board to administer the $60 million for low-interest loans, we’ve had cattle starving to death from the top to the bottom of Australia; farmers being forced off vast tracts of land; and families’ lives destroyed,” said Mr Katter.

“They held up these loans for three months and had the hide to argue administration charges when they have a full department set up to do just this sort of job. Now we urge people to get their applications in as fast as possible because there is not a lot of money there.”

Mr Katter commended the efforts of the chair of the Rural Debt Roundtable steering committee, Rowell Walton.

Mr Walton said: “I’d like to congratulate all those that have been part of this process – at last the states have signed up. It will help hundreds of families throughout Australia, from wheat and sheep areas in the east of WA right around to the dairy producers in Victoria and up to North West Qld and NT cattle producers, who all need help desperately.”

“This is a great win for those people who believe that problems can be solved by some level of intervention. Something can be done. And this is a turning point,” said Mr Walton.

Mr Katter said that whilst the $420 million Farm Finance Package “is sincerely appreciated, we will be negotiating with the PM for the three elements that do not exist”, namely –

  • An adequate figure for loans over the next two years, conditional upon significant write offs by the banks of the debt before the debt is on sold to the reconstruction board)
  • A small grant of money initially to subsidise the interest down to two per cent, to a figure of $5m a year, but the fund would become self-funding and that grant money would not be needed after the third year;
  • A revolving fund so when the money is paid back in, they can loan it back out again. Separately, this would take place under strict prudential oversighting. The lending would then slowly increase (most of the lending within five years will be a good lending because, sadly, most of the gone-too-far cases will be sold up).

“I speak with considerable experience after being the Minister with the primary responsibility for the QIDC state bank where this model was very effective in supporting our sugar industry,” said Mr Katter.

“But again, we emphasise that this is no magic pudding. We must return the viability to Australian agriculture that requires ethanol to fix up grain, sugar and cattle; an arbitrated price for milk and eggs; and a level playing field against fruit and vegetable imports – those are the conditions for prosperity for rural Australia.”