The Queensland Government has fired back at Federal Drought Minister David Littleproud after he launched a self-serving broadside at the states over drought funding.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said he was disappointed to see Mr Littleproud playing politics on the issue, especially on the day the nation’s agriculture ministers came together at Moree to work on solutions.
“While we are standing shoulder to shoulder with Queensland farmers through this insidious drought, Mr Littleproud seems unwilling to demonstrate bipartisanship,” Mr Furner said.
“Farmers remember this is the same Federal Government that unilaterally withdrew its 25% Emergency Water Infrastructure Scheme rebate when there was a change of government in Queensland in 2015, and only committed to restoring it at last year’s national drought summit.”
The Queensland Government has committed more than $745M to support drought affected producers and communities since 2013.
Assistance measures have included:
• Increasing the payroll tax threshold to $1.3m and reducing the rate by an additional 1 per cent for regional businesses;
• $74.6m in the State Budget for ongoing drought assistance, including emergency water infrastructure rebates, electricity charges relief for irrigators and water users, land rent rebates and water licence waivers;
• Expanding drought support beyond the Drought Assistance Package to include funding for mental health support, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Drought Wellbeing Service and additional financial counselling for both producers and small business in droughted areas;
• Primary Industries Productivity Enhancement Scheme (PIPES) providing concessional loans to establish or improve sustainability of primary production; and
• The $21m Drought and Climate Adaptation Program (DCAP) to help producers better manage future drought and climate risks through improved forecast products, tools and extension activities.
Mr Furner said the Queensland Government invested more than $120M in agricultural research and extension last financial year, including researching drought-resistant crop varieties.
State-owned Ergon is currently trialling a couple of tariffs for farmers --- only possible because Queensland owns its energy assets.
And Ergon has waived more than $3M in fixed charges for farmers living in drought affected areas.
By 2021, the Palaszczuk Government’s signature $600M Works for Queensland program will have created or supported more than 21,000 jobs through the State’s remote and regional councils.
This includes areas where drought has been a mainstay for many years.
From Balonne and Banana to the Central Highlands, Diamantina, Gladstone, Gympie, Longreach, Maranoa and Southern Downs - more than 60 councils are eligible for funding for projects as diverse as skate parks, water infrastructure, grandstands and public pools.
“In towns and regions where hope can be a scarce commodity, simply knowing that there is a job to get up and go to in the morning helps keep communities strong,” Mr Furner said.
“These are the councils that employ a farmer’s husband or daughter or partner. These are the jobs that keep communities together.
“We have also committed $10M to our Rural Economic Development Grants, the first tranche of which is expected to create over 600 agricultural jobs in rural and regional Queensland.
“By any measure the Palaszczuk Government has stepped up to the plate for our farmers, and we will continue to do so.”
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries
The Honourable Mark Furner