Graziers struggling with debt in drought-declared North Queensland have lashed out and broken down in front of visiting politicians and economists.
The Rural Debt and Drought Taskforce met about 40 farmers in Ayr on Thursday to discuss what some called “criminal” and “disgraceful” behaviour by banks.
“You will starve — the whole country will starve” if governments do not “pull their heads in” and bail out the industry, one man warned.
Another said he was forced to eat sandwiches every day because he could not afford anything else and was offended by the catered spread at the meeting.
The gathering heard some lenders were devaluing properties across the region by up to 30 per cent, forcing graziers to pay higher interest rates because the loans were now considered higher risk.
Taskforce chairman and Mount Isa MP Rob Katter again argued the Queensland Government should set up its own bank to takeover loans from private lenders.
“These things are effective instruments. They keep industries going,” he said.
Mr Katter said the risk would be low for taxpayers.
“There’s no alternate use on these grazing properties out in the west and you’ve got some people who don’t pay themselves wages but they’re willing to stay out there paying taxes,” he said.
“They just need a leg up after a few bad years.”
‘Kids know what’s going on’
The ABC met one farming family struggling with drought in debt after eight years on their property near Ravenswood, east of Charter Towers.
PHOTO Grazier Jono Rich said the money farmers make was invested back into property and family.
“It [the drought and debt] affects everyone,” mother of three Jess Rich said.
“The kids go out into the paddock and tell us about the day’s duties and what they’ve seen and some days what they say is quite hard to take.”
The Rich family supports calls for government support.
“Farmers aren’t silly people. The money that they make is invested back into property and family. It’s not spent on lavish holidays or anything like that,” grazier Jono Rich said.
The taskforce will continue its tour of regional Queensland and report back to the State Treasurer in about two months.