Farmers needed more than foreign aid

HINCHINBROOK MP Nick Dametto has called on the Federal Coalition Government to put farmers, not foreign aid, first as Australia deals with a drought crisis.

Currently, about 98 per cent of New South Wales and almost two thirds of Queensland is either in drought or drought affected, yet the government’s foreign aid budget remains at a staggeringly high $4.2 billion.

“I am absolutely appalled that the Federal Coalition seems so willing to spend taxpayers’ money on foreign aid programs of questionable benefit while it lets our farmers suffer,” Mr Dametto said.

“Compared to the amount of financial funding and assistance offered to farmers, it beggars belief that this is where the government sees its priorities.”

While Mr Dametto welcomed Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement on Sunday of a $190 million Farm Household Allowance scheme, he questioned how effective lump sum payments of up to $12,000 for drought-affected households would be.

“$12,000 won’t even make a dent in addressing this issue,” he said.

“The government needs to dramatically increase those payments and give our farmers a fighting chance.”

Mr Dametto said the horrific situation facing farmers at the moment reinforced a push by Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) for a Government-backed Rural Development Bank to provide low interest, affordable loans and safeguard the future of the nation’s agriculture.

“The big banks have shown they will not stand by our farmers, who are vital to the future prosperity of Australia,” he said.

“Let’s make a real difference at home first before we try and take on the world’s problems.”

The latest Queensland Rural Debt Survey showed that as of December 2017, those living in rural areas owed $17.24 billion.

Under the KAP’s plan, a not-for-profit Development Bank would provide businesses in rural and regional Queensland the opportunity to access concessional finance to make business improvements and expand.

“There are many opportunities across different industries which go unrealised because of lack of access to reasonably priced finance,” Mr Dametto said.

“The major financial institutions underservice regional Queensland due to a lack of scale and higher levels of profitability in metropolitan areas. This results in a gap in the market for rural finance which is not being filled by commercial lenders.”

The proposed bank would work under flexible arrangements where it can act as sole provider or compliment activities of commercial lenders willing to provide reasonably priced finance.

In 2016, a report by the Queensland Rural Debt and Drought Taskforce, chaired by KAP State leader and Traeger MP Robbie Traeger, recommended establishing a Rural Development Bank, which was rejected by both Labor and LNP.

Nick Dametto MP