Following his visit to flood-stricken areas of Queensland, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced meaningful Government support for cattle producers, small businesses and communities.
Mr Morrison met with graziers in Townsville and its surrounding areas to witness the devastation firsthand.
Upon the Prime Minister’s return the Federal Government made a suite of announcements including low interest loans for the refinancing of existing debt as well as for restocking costs and the formation of the North Queensland Livestock Recovery Agency that aims to develop a long term plan for the region and sector.
Shane Stone QC, former Northern Territory Chief Minister, was appointed the chair of the Agency and will provide advice to the Prime Minister on how existing and new Commonwealth policies and programs can best contribute to rebuilding the industry.
“I met families who had been on the land for generations building their herd,” PM Scott Morrison said in his announcement.
“To see them washed away, lying in the dry mud, it’s just heartbreaking.
“Whether it be through restocking grants, concessional loans or mental health support, we are stepping up to the plate and pitching in — that’s what Australians expect us to do.”
National Farmers’ Federation President Fiona Simson says the further wide-ranging Government support for North Queensland cattle producers would be transformative to the recovery process for producers and their communities.
“The Prime Minister’s commitment to helping North Queensland rebuild ‘farm by farm, station by station’ was particularly comforting.
“The task of rebuilding herds and infrastructure, such as fences, yards, roads and water infrastructure is immense. Without appropriate Government support and equitable consideration from lenders, the recovery for many would be overwhelming and in some cases impossible.”
As flood waters washed away generations of work, thousands of bales of hay and teams of workers and volunteers began to help with the recovery process, however it isn’t enough to overcome the destruction this once in a lifetime natural disaster caused.
The Government also asked major rural lenders not to foreclose or force the sale of farmers for three years and to defer the interest and principle repayments of existing debt, where possible for three years.
The call to action to the banks included a request for a commitment to continue to lend for herd rebuilding, drawing on security over livestock rather than the family home, with the support of Government grants.
Red tape and tax relief is also available with the Australian Taxation Office confirming the agency will defer due date tax payments and enlargements; remit interest and penalty charges on tax debts and fast track income tax and GST refunds for flood-affected taxpayers.
The full extent of the damage is not yet known and it will not be for some time. For those requiring assistance, some information on flood assistance measures can be found on FarmHub.