Queensland Treasury Corporation on its knees – trading insolvent
Unable to offer freight subsidies ALP drives in last nail for primary producers
The Queensland corporate Government has again proven its disdain for the bush, ripping vital water, fodder and livestock freight subsidies from the hands of drought-stricken producers, State KAP Leader and Traeger MP Robbie Katter has said.
Mr Katter said it was telling that the Minister for Agricultural Industry Development, Comrade Mark Furner, had revoked the subsidies only months after the North West cattle industry was decimated by almost 10 years of drought followed by extreme torrential rain.
The Minister announced on Friday that the subsidies would end due to the “poor management decisions” of those farmers who accessed the scheme.
Minister Furner said producers who already live in drought-declared areas — around 65 per cent of the state — would not immediately be affected by the changes, but they will when their drought declarations are lifted.
Mr Katter said the recent partial revocation of drought declarations in the Flinders Shire and Charters Towers Regional Council areas meant producers in these parts would never receive the subsidies again.
“If you’re going to take away something then what is the alternative to try stabilise a critical rural industry through prolonged drought?” Mr Katter said.
“This doesn’t just hit the producers themselves, but all of the contractors built around that industry as well – this is an industry-crippling decision targeting people who are already on their knees.
“I mean no disrespect, but the fact is that this has been signed off by a Minister who lives in Brisbane, has always live in Brisbane, and would find it very difficult to understand how these natural events can rip through otherwise well-performing battlers in the industry that we need to retain in the future.
“I almost choked on my cup of tea when I heard the Premier refer to Minister Furner as the ‘Farmer’s Friend’ in Parliament a few weeks ago; we are all being taken for a ride here.
“I am unsure as to how bad things need to get before our governments realise the actual value of our food production industries.
“We’ll likely be spooning processed foreign meat out of tin by then, because it is getting near on impossible to achieve sustainability in our food production industries in this state.
“My recommendation, and the recommendation of many, has long been the establishment of a government-owned and run Rural Reconstruction Board.
“This would mean the government could utilise its advantageous borrowing rates to provide new credit to the well-performing primary producers who are struggling on their balance sheets.
“This is not about propping up inefficient business, but about increasing self-sufficiency and negating the need for government subsidies and handouts altogether.
“Overall it would save the state money, but I note this is something neither Labor nor the LNP has given the time of day.”
It’s a slow day in the small town of Pumphandle and the streets are deserted.
Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody is living on credit.A tourist visiting the area drives through town, stops at the motel, and lays a $100 bill on the desk saying he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs to pick one for the night.
As soon as he walks upstairs, the motel owner grabs the bill and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.
The butcher takes the $100 and runs down the street to retire his debt to the pig farmer.
The pig farmer takes the $100 and heads off to pay his bill to his supplier, the Co-op.
The guy at the Co-op takes the $100 and runs to pay his debt to the local prostitute,
who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer her “services” on credit.
The hooker rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill with the hotel Owner.
The hotel proprietor then places the $100 back on the counter so the traveler will not suspect anything.
At that moment the traveler comes down the stairs, states that the rooms are not satisfactory,
picks up the $100 bill and leaves.
No one produced anything. No one earned anything…..!
However, the whole town now thinks that they are out of debt and there is a false atmosphere of optimism and glee…….
And that, my friends, is how a “government stimulus package” works!
Which farmers are eligible for Federal Government fortnightly Newstart payments?
The start date for the Interim Farm Household Allowance (FHA) was brought forward to March 3; it was previously scheduled to begin in July.
It replaces the Transitional Farm Family Payment and has more generous thresholds.
Up to $900 per fortnight is available for drought-affected farming couples most in need.
Farmers with net assets of $2.55 million will be able to apply for the Interim FHA, and off-farm assets for a married farmer can’t exceed $279,000.
The family home is exempt.
David Green, a project officer with the Department of Human Services, is urging farmers not to think they won’t be eligible.
“Each individual’s circumstances are different.
“It’s always in their best interests to lodge a claim.
“We’ll be in touch with them to work out with them if they’re eligible for the payment.”
A farmer assistance hotline13 23 16 is operational Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm.
The Department of Human Services answered ABC Rural’s questions about the allowance’s eligibility requirements:
What is classified as an asset?
The Interim FHA will have a two tier asset test, comprising a non-farm asset test and farm asset test.
Any farm asset is assessed under the $2.55 million net asset limit and includes all assets essential to the running of the farm business.
The principal home is exempt from the asset calculation but a second or subsequent dwelling on the property is considered a farm asset.
A mob of cattle, stored grain, and any vehicles used to operate the farm are assets.
David Green says the value of an asset is “whatever the value of the asset is at the time of your claim if you were to sell it.”
Total net off-farm or liquid assets mustn’t exceed the relevant social security threshold. For a married farmer, the relevant threshold is currently $279,000.
“Those assets are personal assets that a person has, such as personal contents, a motor vehicle that you might use only for personal use, money in bank accounts, and personal shares,” said Mr Green.
The thresholds are indexed to CPI and differ depending on whether the recipient is married or is a homeowner.
“If you’re single and you’re a homeowner, you’ll have a certain threshold. If you’re a couple and you’re a homeowner, you would have a higher threshold.
“The threshold is based on the personal circumstances of the person claiming.”
How much assistance is available?
Interim FHA will be paid at a fortnightly rate equivalent to Newstart Allowance (or Youth Allowance if a recipient is under 22). For a married homeowner, the amount of the payment is $452.30 per fortnight.
The payment rate is indexed to CPI and differs depending on whether the recipient is married or is a homeowner.
The payment is also subject to an income test. If, for example, a farmer has additional off-farm income the Department would take that into account when calculating the correct rate of payment for that person.
“If somebody is single and 21, the maximum payment they would receive is $501,” said the Department of Human Service’s David Green.
“If you’re a couple then you would receive $452.30 each. So that would be a maximum combined amount of $904.60 being paid to the applicant.”
Both on and off-farm income is assessed under the income test.
Once a recipient earns over a certain amount, the amount of their payment is reduced.
That is, recipients can earn up to $62 (gross) before payment is reduced; income between $62 and $250 reduces payment by 50 cents per dollar; and income above $250 reduces payment by 60 cents per dollar.
The cut-out points varies for individuals depending on their circumstances. A couple who are both receiving the Interim FHA will not get a payment in a fortnight if their income reaches approximately $1,700.
For the purposes of the income test, in certain circumstances, a recipient may be able to deduct off-farm income earned against interest payable on their farm debt.
The purpose of this measure is to ensure that only income genuinely available to a recipient for their self-support is actually counted as income.
How long will it last?
The Interim FHA will be replaced by the new Farm Household Allowance on 1 July 2014. Legislation to implement the permanent FHA will be introduced to the Parliament shortly.
The Department of Human Services says funding for this measure is uncapped, meaning it will be available to anyone meeting the eligibility criteria.
“It is demand driven. We’re here to provide assistance to all those farmers in need who lodge a claim,” said David Green.
To apply or discuss their options, farmers in need should contact the Farmer Assistance Hotline (Department of Human Services) on 13 23 16 between 8am and 8pm, Monday to Friday.
The Interim FHA claim form and eligibility guidelines are available HERE.
Bankers not supportive of Rural Crisis Committee’s Rural Reconstruction and Development Bank
The Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce says he’s working as fast as he can to prepare a drought assistance package to present to Cabinet.
The minister toured drought-hit regions of northern NSW and Southern Queensland over the weekend, and heard pleas from local farmers for help.
Some of those meetings again raised calls for a federal Rural Reconstruction and Development Bank, which would buy rural debt from commercial lenders.
Mr Joyce says he’s ‘not philosophically opposed’ to such an idea, but it won’t form part of what he takes to Cabinet within weeks.
“There’s a lot of land to cover, if you were to go down that path, before you’d get such a bank in place,” he said.
“I’m not dismissing the idea, but what I’m saying is that the issues pertaining to the drought are right here and now and I’ve got to deal with them right here and now.”
What will be in the package the minister takes to Cabinet is still unclear.
While a rural reconstruction and development bank isn’t on the Minister’s list of short-term goals, it’s been commonly raised by farmers, particularly in Queensland, as an idea they’d like to see seriously considered by government.
The banking sector, however, is more sceptical.