Katter 'all talk' on rural debt, say Nats

05 Dec, 2014 06:19 AM
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.”

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


10/12/2014 10:56:38 AM

So Rob, who owns the $1.5 billion in FMDs in NSW & QLD if we exclude all the livestock producers? Grain growers say they have no money. Cane growers say they have no money. Cotton growers say they have no money. Vegetable growers say they have no money. Fruit growers say they have no money. So who owns the $1.5 billion spare cash??
Rob Moore
10/12/2014 12:39:18 PM

G, I stand by what I have said tho I have no idea who owns the $. Probably city money being parked up via hobby farms. Could be processors/feedlotters/agents /middlemen with a block of dirt for all I know. Also the cliff is down the road as 13-14 yr figures have a lot of churn over( 1-2 years future income that won't ever happen.) My gross this year will be 30% of normal and I am in an above average position with very little Debt! This is simple fact- not emotion and the fallout is going to be messy next year. I'd like to be proven wrong but I won't be.
10/12/2014 2:36:23 PM

Geronimo, What is your source, for the figure $3.2 Billion currently held in FMDs??
10/12/2014 2:38:39 PM

"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. " I do hope you were joking, geronimo, because that kind of thinking will get 20% of producers who produce 80% of goods and most of the profits very very nervous about any kind of long term presence in the industry, let alone expansion. That is no different to the Cyprus govt making depositors unsecured creditors in their banking system. Crazy, insane talk!
Ted O'Brien.
11/12/2014 12:35:40 AM

The long and the short of all this is that the National Party has been a lousy representative for its constituency for most of the last 25 years. Instead of representing us to government it has represented government to us.
Ted O'Brien.
11/12/2014 12:39:59 AM

I suggest that the man who should be subjected to attack is Andrew Robb. He was employed by the NFF at the time when the trouble all started.
Bushie Bill
11/12/2014 6:54:37 AM

The posts to this article confirm that RARAs are still infected by the agsoc disease. Things will never get better until they learn and accept they are not a special sector in our economy and society. They are simply another sector, exactly the same as every other sector. RARA must learn they are supposed to be running businesses, not managing lifestyles propped up by the Australian taxpayers and consumers. When you learn this, you will have an opportunity to succeed. Until then, stop whingeing about how we owe you a living. It is boring and counter-productive.
11/12/2014 11:08:29 AM

Hayseed, information / statistics regarding FMDs is on the DAFF web site. The figure is now $3.6 billion. Interestingly, if the Government wants to complain about a revenue hole in the national budget, then perhaps it can investigate and tell us who owns the $3.6 billion sitting in Australia's biggest Government-endorsed tax haven. Or perhaps 4 Corners will.
Ted O'Brien.
11/12/2014 3:16:08 PM

BB. As this website's most dedicated contributor, you demonstrate some learning of the grossly unsound current conventional wisdom in economics. So, inform us, how is the price set which an Australian farmer receives for a tonne of wheat? Or a tonne of sugar? Or a tonne of beef? After you tell us this, I will ask you, why do you believe that the world's most efficient producers should be the first to cut production? I know that this is because you subscribe to the Marxist texts, and Marxists despise efficiency. But you tell us your story.
Bushie Bill
11/12/2014 7:15:06 PM

What on Earth have you been sniffing, Ted? Tell me, Ted, a) where have I ever suggested farmers or anyone should cut production?; b) why would you even think I would suggest a cut in production? c) where is it evident, from any texts or source whatsoever, that "Marxists despise efficiency"?; d) repeat question, what have you been inhaling?
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