Wednesday 26 November, 2014

There is an answer to the burgeoning rural debt crisis, and that solution will be tabled at the Winton Debt Crisis Summit next Friday, 5 December, says Member for Mount Isa, Rob Katter.

Showing a graph on Sky News’ Richo + Jones show last night, Mr Katter demonstrated the serious of rural indebtedness.

“It’s widespread all over Western Queensland.

“Government policy, or lack thereof over the last 30 years and exacerbated more recently by the high Aussie dollar, Live Export ban and the two year drought has meant rural debt has been rocketing northward, and net farm profit has been staying static for 30 years.

“That’s a structural problem the Government has to fix, but at this time both State and Federal Governments are sitting on their hands,” Mr Katter said.

Mr Katter said the drought assistance loans, lauded by both state and federal governments as relief for drought-stricken graziers, were almost useless.

“The most a farmer can get in drought assistance is $5,000 to $10,000 a year. The average loan repayment for graziers in the North West would be between $200,000 and $250,000 per annum.

“You’re using a peashooter to fix a gargantuan problem.

“Government assistance is worth nothing at the moment,” Mr Katter said.

Mr Katter agreed with Sydney commentator Alan Jones, who wants a moratorium on farm closures until after the drought breaks, but said more was needed.

“We can have two successive good seasons from now and people will still be rebuilding their herds and struggling with debt.

“The answer is the reconstruction board (the Australian Reconstruction Development Board); it’s an elegant and sophisticated way of reconstructing rural debt so farmers can still remain viable and their farms can remain in Australian ownership, rather than going to foreign owners.

“There is a blue sky for people in agriculture, but we need people in federal government who are going to stand up for this and help Aussie farmers hold on.”

Mr Katter said invitations to the Debt Crisis Summit at Winton had been extended to all the big banks, the Australian Banking Association, and both Federal and State Ministers of Agriculture.

“I understand Barnaby Joyce will attend, and that is pleasing. We need politicians who care about the survival of farmers more than their own jobs in the party room.”

Mr Katter said the government committed Australian taxpayers to underwrite the big banks for billions of dollars during the Global Financial Crisis; now it was time for the government to commit to helping primary producers.

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