North Queensland MP Bob Katter says anecdotal reports suggest that drought is causing the deaths of between 5000 to 10,000 cattle every day across the state’s north, an area which is home to about one quarter of the national cattle herd.
The Federal member for Kennedy and leader of the Katter Australia Party says $100m in grants, the creation of an Australian Reconstruction and Development Bank and better access for graziers to underground water for irrigation are urgently needed to avert further losses and a dramatic reduction in the region’s future productive capacity.
With producers now enduring their second failed wet season in a row and affordable drought fodder all but impossible to source, many cattle were now dying cruel deaths from starvation, and reports of rural suicides were becoming increasingly prevalent.
Mr Katter believes Governments at State and Federal level can do more to assist producers to keep cattle alive and to keep their businesses afloat, and said such moves woulld benefit Governments and the broader community in the longer term.
“We’re asking for $100m over two years in grants from a Federal Government that spends $400,000 million in a year.
“If they don’t do it 20 percent of Australia’s cattle production will go.
“20pc of the cattle industry will be $1000 million a year, that is $300 million a year you will lose in taxation, so even without any multiplier effects, if you don’t do it, you’re going to lose $300m a year.
“I am asking for $100m in grants and I won’t concede them a single dollar, because I know they will make money out of the reconstruction and development bank.
“The Government is going to watch a massive loss of taxation income not only now but for the next 10-15 years, but if they preserve these factories that are going to produce wealth, the cows in other words, they will have an opportunity to make profits out of this development and reconstruction bank.
“It will rain again. Never in Northern Australia’s history have we had three failed (wet seasons) in a row. It will rain like buggery, cattle prices are projected to go through the roof when it does, and when that happens the Government will be doubly happy, because they will not have lost their tax revenue, and they will have a rural bank.”
Mr Katter said that on the same day the Queensland Government announced an additional $20m in support measures for drought affected producers earlier this month, taking the total to $31m, it also announced a $5000m project to build a new underground bus and train tunnel in Brisbane.
“When they gave us $12m (in grants) last week, the same day that they said they couldn’t find anything more than that, on the same day they announced $5000m so a few thousand people can have an extra two minutes carved off the time it take them to get to work.
They can find $5000m for that no trouble at all, but just $12m for an industry where there’s 5000-10,000 head of cattle dying every day now.”
In June 2013 the Katter Australia Party introduced a bill to the House of Representatives calling for the establishment within the Reserve Bank of Australia of a rural reconstruction and development board to take over bad debt and aiming to ensure the sustainability of Australian agriculture. In the same month a mirroring bill was introduced to the Senate by independent senators Nick Xenophon and John Madigan. In December 2013, the Senate referred the Reserve Bank Amendment (Australian Reconstruction and Development Board) Bill 2013 to the Economics Legislation committee for inquiry and report – for more details click here