Acting PM addresses cane growers after $44M loss to local industry
PROSERPINE Canegrowers estimate a sugar cane loss of 466,000 tonnes in the wake of Cyclone Debbie.
At $500 a tonne that loss equates a shortfall of $233 million.
It was on the back of this devastating news that acting Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce arrived at the Glen Isla farm of Proserpine Canegrowers chair Glenn Clarke on Saturday.
Mr Joyce was accompanied by Liberal National Party Opposition leader Tim Nicholls in a tour that also took in the hard hit horticultural industry in Bowen and the tourism industry in Airlie Beach.
Mr Joyce acknowledged that the sugar cane industry was a vital component to the economy of North Queensland but also said it was not possible for the Federal Government to underwrite the entire sugar crop.
"I will be quite frank, you can't have the Federal Government as the insurer of every form of income across the board, otherwise we would start charging taxes at 50 cents in the dollar," he said.
"We just can't do that. We have to do something that is in the same breath that is proportionate. We try as much as we can to assist, that assistance is determined by a formula that is run out with the NDRRA (Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements) funding."
"We also have further Federal assistance which comes in the form of a farm household allowance if it is required. It provides a couple with $1000 a fortnight to keep groceries on their table."
Member for Dawson George Christensen added that if the State Government activates category C of the NDRRA, farmers will be able to access up to $25,000 for recovery and rebuilding of their farms.
"We are hopeful that, that will be the case. We are hearing that could be two weeks away from being announced," he said.
The payment will be backdated from the date of the disaster, Mr Christensen said.
Mr Joyce also addressed concerns from a grower about the rebuilding of culverts under roads and cane train railways.
"At St George when we had the floods go through there and I was living there at the time we made sure when we were rebuilding that the rebuilding was of a better standard that what we had," he said.
Mr Joyce said funding provided by the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements was allocated through the Queensland State Government but the Federal Government picks up as much of 75% of the bill.
"It is very important to say that because it is very easy for other people to recommend somebody else spend their money. We are willing to do that and looking forward to that support."
"We have been speaking to Minister Keenan as recently as this morning (Saturday) and we are about to hear from the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for a higher level of disaster relief and a better outcome of the rebuilding of substantial infrastructure," Mr Joyce said.
Manager of Canegrowers Proserpien Mike Porter said Mr Joyce standing in a Proserpine cane field sent a strong message of confidence in the face of crisis.
"It is showing that the government is taking our particular crisis very seriously," he said.
"I think it's great that have actually come out on the ground and had a look at the farms. It's great to see the politicians out here supporting us."