The Member for Mount Isa, Rob Katter is urging the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott to travel further north when he ventures to Longreach next week to view drought conditions.
“This is no criticism of the Prime Minister; I think it’s good that he’s coming out west to see the kind of conditions our graziers and rural business people have been struggling with for the past few years.
“But it would be good if he could venture further north to Richmond and Hughenden, and even up to Georgetown and Normanton where they were hit by bushfires just as the drought was taking hold.
“That was right after the live export ban, so it’s been a triple whammy for these northern producers,” Mr Katter said.
Longreach was easy for politicians to get to, with a regular QantasLink flight, Mr Katter said, but he urged Federal and State politicians to take the time to travel further into the deep north and talk to those affected by the drought in more remote regions.
The Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk recently visited Longreach, Barcaldine and Charleville, and Mr Katter said he would encourage her too, to visit North Western Queensland.
“If politicians want to meet with graziers from across the Northern Beef Industry, including the Barkly Tablelands, the Gulf, and Western Queensland the best location to make that happen would be Mount Isa which is far more central to Northern Beef Production than Longreach.
“It’s not only the drought, or the bushfires that affect our agricultural industries, it’s the nature of rural debt, and I’d like the Prime Minister and Premier to understand this, as there’s a very simple solution – the Australian Reconstruction Development Board (ARDB) which, given the power, would act as a rural bank, allowing graziers to restructure their debt.”
Mr Katter applauded the efforts of the Western Drought Appeal, based in Longreach, which was calling for cash donations.
“Cash is definitely what is needed in these small rural communities to give relief to graziers and businesses in these towns.
“But we need a longer term solution to the 30-year problem of how rural debt is structured.
“We’re seeing graziers at the mercy of the big four banks, who can buy and sell mortgages and change the conditions, contracts and repayments at their whim.
“This needs to change. Power needs to be shifted from the banks to an independent board which would administer rural loans. It’s worked before; it can work again now, when we most need it.”
April 2013: 11 out of 14 shire councils in Mount Isa electorate were drought declared.
Only Mount Isa, Winton and Mornington Island were not drought declared.
August 2013: All shire councils in Mount Isa electorate were drought declared except for Mornington Island
January 2014: Longreach became drought declared
July 2014: Doomadgee, Burke and Carpentaria were taken off drought declaration. All other shires are now into their third year of drought