A parliamentary taskforce investigating rural debt and drought in Queensland has recommended the establishment of a specialised rural and industry development bank.
The inquiry, chaired by Katter Australia Party Queensland leader Robbie Katter, conducted public hearings across the state, and has made 14 recommendations.
Mr Katter said both levels of Government had ignored deep-seated structural problems that have affected rural producers and rural towns.
He said the recommendations represent cost effective measures to address these structural problems and reinvigorate rural areas.
“The banks themselves will admit that APRA doesn’t provide the latitude in many cases, to fit the current situation in this sector. If you’re hit by things like the live export ban and then the drought, even the best management would have trouble surviving.”
Recommendations from the Rural Debt and Drought Taskforce report
- That the Government of Queensland establishes a Rural and Industries Development Bank.
- That government make provisions for a contemporary farm debt reconstruction authority with the ability to address untenable financial arrangements.
- That the State Government engages with all stakeholders to facilitate the uptake of a commercial multi-peril insurance.
- That the Government initiate a royal commission to investigate financial conduct within the finance sector.
- That the State Government as a matter of priority ensure that sufficient mental health workers are provided to identified struggling regions commensurate with the level of stress.
- That the state extend and expand a funding model to facilitate intergenerational transfer of farm properties including stamp duty exemptions.
- Extend productivity enhancement loans to include water infrastructure and vermin fencing with long repayment periods.
- That the State Government Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate be extended to de-silting of dams.
- That inside the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, an independent office of rural affairs be established.
- That a commitment be made to give preferential consideration to engaging local businesses and local authorities in the construction of new and improved infrastructure for drought-affected rural areas.
- That significant direct public funding be made available to producers for continual learning opportunities to build their capacity to manage farm financial and climate risks.
- That the State Government provides additional financial assistance for children’s education in severely-affected drought areas until drought recovery is complete.
- That the State Government make strong representations to the Federal Government to revise the eligibility criteria of the Farm Household Allowance, so it is more accessible to operators of primary production enterprises.
- That the state make strong argument to the Federal Government that any drought that lasts longer than two years be declared a natural disaster.