A DELEGATION of North Queensland graziers hit the ground running in Canberra yesterday after thick fog in Sydney delayed their arrival at the nation’s capital.
Graziers Barry Hughes, Rob Atkinson and Russell Lethbridge are in Canberra representing the northern cattle industry with Independent MP Bob Katter for three days of crisis talks.
They kicked off their schedule with a meeting with Treasurer Wayne Swan and are due to meet with members of the Coalition including Opposition Leader Tony Abbott tomorrow.
Beef Crisis Steering Committee chair Barry Hughes said it was crucial for both sides of the political fence in Canberra to recognise the dire position the northern cattle industry was in.
“The combination of eight to ten major issues is impacting on this industry and we are here to look at the medium and long term policies that we can help shape to give our industry a new direction,” Mr Hughes said.
“But the short term impacts are the ones that are going to give us that space to be able to, in the first instance, get the relevant ministers to understand the scale and the urgency of the issues that we find our industry in.
“The number one challenge is to be able to get the federal government to commit to buying back 100,000 head of cattle using funds through the regional development fund to be able to take the pressure away from the bottleneck which is impacting on the cattle market right across northern Australia.
“Cattle we would have and should have been exported over the last two years are coming back through our domestic market and it is creating a huge amount of pressure and with no grass from the lack of the rainfall, the fires, they are all impacting on this industry. There is no quick fix and we need to start at the grassroots level.”
Russell Lethbridge said the delegation was also looking to reignite the live export industry and address the delays in free trade agreements with Japan and Korea in its crisis talks with government.
“The live export issue has been flogged around for some time now,” Mr Lethbridge said.
“We are here to offer some short term solutions that would do well to run with.
“The complete lack of urgency in getting a free trade agreement signed with Japan and Korea is impeding on our ability to make a profit every day. The longer we sit on our hands the more ground we give to other exporting countries like the US.
“The reality that we are being forced to shoot our cattle is not overstated. A lot of this stuff we are talking about today is absolutely critical. We are on the verge of an industry collapse in north Australia.
“The Australian food consumer needs to take a long hard look whether they want to give their families the clean green products produced by their farmers in Australia every day or get it from an unknown quantity offshore because that is where we are headed.”