BOB Katter has called on the state government to sign up to the federal government’s Farm Finance package to help graziers in financial crisis in the State's North West.
As he toured North West Queensland cattle stations with Indonesian Ambassador Nadjib Riphat Kesoema on Monday, the KAP Leader and Kennedy MP said the $60 million included in the Farm Finance package for each State and the Northern Territory giving eligible farmers to access concessional loans of up to $650,000 each was needed right now.
“This is the height of hypocrisy from a government who promised at the North West Queensland cattle crisis summit to give all the help they could,” Mr Katter said in a statement.
Mr Katter said North West Queensland cattle producers were shooting starving stock while the state government “sits on its hands in releasing the $60 million in emergency federal funding”.
“We urgently request the state put aside politics and prioritise the lives of cattlemen, their families, their stock and their businesses as cattle die, families are ripped off the land, and vast tracts of Australia are being sold up,” Mr Katter said.
Mr Katter said he had also sought assurances the federal government would prioritise the restoration of Australia’s live export industry during forthcoming meetings with the Indonesian Government.
“The Prime Minister must get us a further opening of that market and absolutely assure, on a government-to-government basis, that we will never cut off their food supply again. As a Christian nation we have an obligation to our neighbours,” Mr Katter said.
On Monday, Mr Katter and Indonesian Ambassador Nadjib Riphat Kesoema along with leaders of the recent North West Queensland summit Cattlemen’s Crisis Committee toured Gulf of Carpentaria cattle stations, described by Mr Katter as the coalface of the “dire economic and animal welfare crisis gripping northern beef producers”.
It follows last month’s visit to Canberra by the Crisis Committee, who met with the Ambassador as part of ongoing discussions with Mr Katter.
“From our little bailiwick of a dozen or so cattlemen, with the people behind us of course, we have seen the provision of $420m of federal funding, with $60m for Queensland,” Mr Katter said.
“We’ve also got Indonesia agreeing to put all of this year’s live export quota into the first half of year, which has opened up not as much as we need or want, but we’re getting there.
“And thirdly, for first time in my memory, we’ve got the RBA acknowledging a problem with the too-high dollar and declining industries in bringing down interest rates.
“But what we need now is an allocation of cattle exports for the second half of the year. We’ve got to find a way of getting rid of the hundreds of thousands of head of cattle starving because of drought and wildfire, and with no-one to sell to since the federal government’s live export ban destroyed our northern cattle industry.”
As previously reported by Fairfax Agricultural Media on June 1, five state agriculture and primary industry ministers jointly rejected the federal government’s Farm Finance package.
Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh along with ministers including Katrina Hodgkinson (NSW), Willem Westra van Holthe (NT), Peter Walsh (Vic) and Charles Baston (WA) unanimously called on then Agriculture Mnister Joe Ludwig to cover administration costs associated with the concessional loans.
In a joint statement provided to Fairfax Agricultural Media at the time, the ministers said they all stand ready to deliver the Farm Finance concessional loans as soon as the Commonwealth has finalised the details and agrees to cover administration costs.
While Senator Ludwig called for the States to "get some skin in the game", the ministers said although they supported the loans package, this was a Commonwealth government program.
According to the five ministers, the package was announced by the Commonwealth on April 27, with no prior consultation with the States or Territories.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.