While rural issues have barely registered a blip on the Federal election radar to date, questions about which party has the best interests of the cattle industry at heart have generated some heat between the LNP and the Katter Australia Party this week.
Queensland agriculture minister John McVeigh launched an attack on Bob Katter’s Katter Australia Party on Tuesday after it elected to direct preferences in four key Queensland seats to the Australian Labor Party.
“Swapping preferences with the Labor Party, the same party that destroyed the live cattle trade industry, which his own electorate relies on, smells of a desperate attempt by Bob Katter to do anything save his own political skin,” Mr McVeigh said.
The KAP fired back by accusing the LNP of trying to mislead voters and overlooking its own history in granting preference deals that helped long-time anti-live export campaigners the Greens to win a House of Representatives seat in the last election.
The KAP is giving its first preferences to Clive Palmer's Palmer United Party and other minor parties, and will direct preferences to the Liberal National Party in most Queensland seats.
However it has also confirmed it will trade preferences with the ALP in the Coalition-held electorates of Hinkler, Herbert and Flynn, as well as Labor's Capricornia, in a deal reportedly done to maximise the chances of KAP securing a Senate seat for its star candidate James Blundell at the expense of the Greens candidate.
Mr McVeigh said the Northern Beef industry would be ‘absolutely outraged’ that Bob Katter was prepared to jump right back into bed with the Labor party.
“This is the same Labor Party that has brought so much distress and pain to our Northern Beef industry which is still reeling from that ridiculous decision to suspend the live cattle trade to Indonesia in 2011," Mr McVeigh said.
“It ripped the heart out of the northern cattle industry and the loss of live exports to Indonesia.
“The loss of market access and oversupply of cattle has, and continues to put immense pressure on drought-stricken paddocks and cattle prices.”
He said the LNP had helped northern cattle producers by launching the Drought Relief Assistance Scheme; finalising the farm refinance package for Qld farmers; visiting Indonesia and opening Queensland Government office in Jakarta, reviewing vegetation management and land tenure; and developing a 30-year strategy for the industry.
Katter Australia Party president and Queensland member for Mount Isa Robbie Katter said Mr McVeigh should watch his own “glass house” before hurling misleading statements about preferences just to save his party’s vote in the bush.
“We will unashamedly maximise our chances for success in this election because the Liberal Party, the ALP and the rural branch of the Liberal Party have failed Australian agriculture dismally,” Mr Katter said.
“Both major parties have mercilessly imposed their free market ideologies on agricultural industries which has knocked them over one after the other.
“Something has to be done and we have to secure seats this election the best way possible.”
Mr Katter said that in accusing of KAP of doing deals that were in a slap in the face for agriculture, Mr McVeigh had conveniently forgotten his federal counterparts’ deals.
“The Coalition delivered the Greens’ Adam Bandt in the last election, plus a number of senate positions due to their preference deals.
“These are the same Greens that are still pushing for live export bans. Does that mean Mr McVeigh is against live cattle exports?
Mr Katter said the KAP had preferenced the Coalition over the ALP in the Senate in every state bar one.
“If anything there is a clear bias in the preferences towards the Coalition. Any claim otherwise is just being dishonest with the public.
“As for action on the rural industry; we’ll stand on our record which includes forming the rural debt roundtable, initiating and organising the rural crisis summit in Richmond, the $420m debt relief package from the government, initiated action on National Parks grazing, initiating the Prickly Acacia forum, and meeting Indonesian officials in Normanton to work towards a resolution in the aftermath of the live cattle export ban.”
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