Katter 'all talk' on rural debt, say Nats

05 Dec, 2014 06:19 AM
Comments
41
 
They can cry there all they like ... but that is all they will ever be able to do

NATIONAL Party MPs have accused Katter's Australian Party (KAP) of raising serious problems but being politically ineffectual at resolving them.

The war of words erupted ahead of a rural debt crisis meeting being held at Winton in Queensland today.

KAP leader and independent MP Bob Katter has helped organise the meeting but is understood to be angered by federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce gate-crashing his event and potentially stealing the limelight.

The forum is expected to attract a large gathering of concerned farmers along with government, banking and industry representatives, and heavyweight radio personality Alan Jones.

Yesterday, National Party MPs indirectly criticised Mr Katter in relation to the Winton event, as the government announced it had committed $100 million to assist Queensland and NSW farmers facing prolonged drought impacts.

Loans of up to $1 million will be made available at 3.21 per cent interest over 10 years to assist farmers with restocking and planting, once the drought breaks.

The announcement in Canberra prompted Queensland LNP MP Bruce Scott to say the organisers of the Winton meeting are unable to fix the actual problems.

“They will cry on the side as independents in the State Parliament and in this place,” he said.

“But it's only from the government benches that you are able to bring forward a package like this.

“They can cry there all they like tomorrow, and the independents will continue to talk about it, but that is all they will ever be able to do.”

Joyce expects catharthis

Mr Joyce said he expected a “cathartic download” at the meeting, in reference to the input of Mr Katter and his son, Queensland MP Rob Katter.

But he said the hardest battle was “where the decision is actually made”.

“Remembering that Agriculture (ministry) is not the Treasury - you have to negotiate and convince your colleagues in Treasury and your colleagues in finance and the Prime Minister of Australia about what is appropriate for your decision because otherwise nothing happens,” he said.

“I can go down to the coffee shop right now and give a great oratory about all the terrible things that are happening and I will be so popular in certain papers and at a certain time on the radio.

“But the problem is that (oratory) is not worth a cup of cold water unless you can deliver on it.”

Mr Joyce said he supported the right of members the fourth estate, like Mr Jones, to ventilate problems like rural debt.

“Their job is to discuss the issues of concern,” he said.

“But sometimes I get a little bit worried or annoyed when you get a clear ventilation of a problem by a person who is in politics but doesn’t want to go into the room to actually try and fix it up.”

Parliamentary war of words

During question time on Wednesday Mr Katter sought to pressure the National Party deputy-leader by asking him to urgently address escalating rural debt.

He said farm debt had blown out from $31 billion in 2003 to $64 billion in 2014 with 30,000 families having exited farming in that period.

He asked the minister if he would restore agricultural bank lending to two per cent and provide four $50 million loans to build an abattoir for the Gulf mid-west.

Mr Katter has also continued demands for the government to establish the Australian Reconstruction and Development Board to help service stressed rural debt, despite the proposal being rejected in the draft Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

The KAP leader said this period of drought and debt would be regarded as “the blackest stain on the nation’s history”.

In his response, Mr Joyce said the government had already approved $700 million to support farmers battling drought and debt issues.

“I am going to Winton on Friday to make sure that we remain in contact with those people,” he said.

“We know they are doing it tough.

“We are happy that, at this point in time, they are being blessed with a little bit of rain, and we hope that that continues, because that will assist the cattle prices and assist people getting back onto their feet.

“Under this government, we are turning around agriculture and we are getting the business done.

“I have got $2.45 as the price for live cattle at this point in time at Darwin,” he said.

“That is a classic example of the difference a different government can make.”

For his part, Rob Katter criticised the $100 million drought concessional loans scheme, saying it confirmed the Minister wasn’t serious about saving the farming industry and that he was quick to accuse anyone not in government, of being ineffective.

“It’s been suggested someone should tip him up and shake him to see what will continue to fall out,” he said in a statement.

“In fact it’s not even extra money, but recycled from States that haven’t used the drought concessional loans, because the uptake has been so low, confirming the fact that they are ineffective.

“There is no clear strategy for the structural problem that is rural debt.

“It’s a 30-year-old problem and unless we solve it, we will see the end of the Aussie farmer.”

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Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
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READER COMMENTS

Geronimo
8/12/2014 10:56:16 AM

Well yes of course as always the devil is in the detail and good luck anyone getting hold of that. Instinct (and a fair bit of experience) tells me there is something very fishy going on with FMDs. But if I'm proven wrong and someone is able to demonstrate that individual Australian farmers are indeed sitting on a cool $3.2 billion in spare cash (keeping in mind the ATO criteria for FMDs is actually quite restrictive by definition) then I will obligingly eat humble pie. FMDs need to be investigated.
Rob Moore
8/12/2014 11:37:31 AM

If every cattle owner had received the $300-500 per head denied them by the lack of competition and captured supply in the last couple of years - in my case I would have an extra $400K to fight the drought and come thru with a productive outfit- whenever the hell it finally does rain ...then there would be NO Winton meetings!9M cattle killed@ $300 under par is $2.7B. JBS would not then be paying cash $1.45B for Primo which will lead to even LESS competition. Shut up, BB, and the rest of you sign onto the PPP. yanks got it 1921 and have $5.30 /kg LIVEWEIGHT. What more do we need to Know?
Ross
8/12/2014 10:22:45 PM

Did any of you go to the rural debt crisis meeting? Because I did. The ARDB is more the farms and the Katter's Australian Party crying.
Jacky
9/12/2014 7:10:03 AM

Geronimo's point is very good - what really is going on with FMDs?
Bushie Bill
9/12/2014 1:47:04 PM

What more you need to know, Robbie, is some basic economic principles and a basic understanding of how markets work. Anyone with an IQ above their boot size thinks you are talking crap (and I won't be "shutting up" as you so politely instructed).
Andrew Jackson
9/12/2014 4:33:31 PM

Katter may not be able to solve the problem. He is 1 in a parliament of 200. Katter's solutions are better than the current lack of any action. However Liberals and Nationals could have solved the problem and have made it worse. Farmers may not have needed as much help if they still had Government owned railways and ports, an Agricultural bank, Government owned meat works, insurance companies. The idiots in the LNP are now selling off the hospitals and schools and ill soon be looking at the Menzies built beef roads.
Rob Moore
9/12/2014 5:49:47 PM

So Bushie- we have the top two global beef co's as one and two here. We have record cattle prices liveweight - all across the world in last 3 years- there is unprecedented demand globally and big retail prices are being paid by consumers the world over. It is a mere 24 cents a kg to get frozen meat from Brisbane to the US westcoast (or China) where - hey presto- that boned out poor cow that got about $1.10 live is worth $6.30 minced up per kg -less the shipping-they have the Packers act sim to my PPP and that =comp. Now that is fact- your comment above is an imbecile with no IQ - just a chip.
morrgo
10/12/2014 8:48:24 AM

Rob, if there is such a huge margin in beef processing and marketing, why haven't cattle producers teamed up and set up their own? Putting money to where one's mouth is would be better received by society than calls to re-legislate agrarian socialism.
Geronimo
10/12/2014 9:06:53 AM

Good point Morrgo. Some of the money sitting in FMDs could be used to build state-of-the-art meat processing and export facilities, for the growers by the growers.
Rob Moore
10/12/2014 9:23:41 AM

Don't worry morrgo- I've already been to China looking for a JV. That is feasabile using my exp and contacts. As for us all forming co-ops or buying into a new works - well maybe if we had a perfect world where we all started @go with an even chance subject to the roll of the dice. We are good at what we do and nobody knows how to get results like the big processors. I could say the flip side is - why don't the meat co's buy properties? Answer: they could never get it as cheap as what they get now. Forget FMDs - there wouldn't be a genuine cattle/sheep person with a cent in them after last 3 years.
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