Swan flags roundtable to tackle rural finance issue

Beef Central, 16/08/2012

Federal treasurer Wayne Swan has announced plans to hold a rountable forum in Brisbane in coming months to tackle issues surrounding mounting rural debt and the flow of finance to agricultural opertions.

Federal member for Kennedy Bob Katter put the spotlight on rural finance in Question Time yesterday afternoon, when he asked if the treasurer was aware that much of rural Australia was struggling under an “insurmountable debt burden”.

“Reliable sources continue to quote that between seven and 20 per cent of farmers are facing foreclosures within two years, and with forced sales widening loan-to-value ratios, fire sales must start, sparking a raging financial bushfire that cannot be quarantined from the Gold Coast, Northern Rivers and Cairns and an economy already undermined by falling metal prices,” Mr Katter said.

The rural independent asked if the Treasurer would agree to meet with agriculturalists, businesses and bankers to discuss pathways forward.

In response Mr Swan said that while Australia’s banking sector was strong and provided a good flow of finance, the issue of finance in the rural sector had been raised by farming community representatives when he visited North Queensland with Mr Katter last month.

“I also know from the people I spoke to, with the member for Kennedy, that there are many people out there with very good businesses who are currently experiencing some challenges in terms of raising their finance,” Mr Swan said.

“That says to me that there is really an issue here.

“Therefore, I think it is a good idea that we get some representatives of the rural sector together with the banking sector and sit down and talk our way through some of these issues.

“So, I am pleased to say to the member for Kennedy that we will be having a rural finance round table as soon as we can in the coming months, most probably in Brisbane, to sit down and discuss these issues.”

Mr Swan said he had “great faith” in the future of Australian agriculture, with demand from the growing middle classes in Asia set to provide an important source of jobs, activity and wealth creation for the rural sector.

He added that the Government was interested in looking beyond the question of flow of finance to other issues including market power. 


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