NATIONAL Farmers Federation (NFF) president Brent Finlay has welcomed Malcolm Turnbull’s upcoming visit to regional Queensland to tackle topical policy issues like drought support and land access arrangements between mining and farming.
A spokesperson for Mr Turnbull told Fairfax Agricultural Media the Prime Minister was expected to visit rural and region Queensland in the future – but they did not specify any dates or locations.
The spokesperson said Mr Turnbull would meet with a range of people on his upcoming visit, including those with an interest in coal seam gas (CSG) mining.
“The Prime Minister is visiting regional areas in Australia and is very aware of the issues facing them, including drought, water resources and mineral extraction,” the spokesperson said.
Coexistence between mining companies and individual farmers has been an ongoing issue in recent years, while concerns about changes to national drought policy have persisted since the multi-billion Exceptional Circumstances scheme was removed by the previous Labor government.
Mr Finlay said the NFF had been attempting to schedule a meeting with Mr Turnbull since he became Prime Minister in September, after defeating Tony Abbott for the Liberal leadership.
“We appreciate the new Prime Minister has been busy but we’d like to talk to him about all of the issues concerning agriculture; the exciting ones like free trade agreements but also the difficult issues like drought and land use competition,” he said.
“I certainly welcome the news (of Mr Turnbull’s visit) and it’s great to have a Prime Minister in the bush because we need a prime minister for all of Australia.
“We want to see the Prime Minister in the bush when times are tough and serious but also to be there when times are good and to look at use of innovation and technology in agriculture which is very much a twenty-first industry these days.”
Mr Finlay said he wanted to accompany Mr Turnbull on any future tour of regional Australia to assist with shaping policy through face to face interactions with producers and industry representatives.
“We have a new Prime Minister and a new outlook for Australian agriculture and now is the opportunity to have these discussions,” he said.
“I welcome that Mr Turnbull is going to visit farming areas and I certainly would like to be there with him to introduce him to producers and to hear their stories and to hear his responses and to work with the Turnbull government to help craft something that will assist people through this next phase of the drought.”
Mr Finlay said he welcomed recent rains in parts of Queensland, but stressed one rain event didn’t fix the underlying issues with drought and impacts on farm and community viability.
“In some areas, they’re moving into the next phase of the drought which is the most difficult phase,” he said.
“When you are in a drought you’ve got to get up in the morning and you’re busy all of the time with checking the water supplies and feeding stock and doing what has to be done to keep the property going.
“But then quite often, after the rain arrives, there’s a real dawning about how strong your business may be.
“Some of these properties have no livestock and therefore no potential income for three years.
“We’re going into a very difficult phase now and the NFF are talking internally about how we can best support that recovery phase.
“We’re trying to put together another social and economic recovery package and talking about what the policy might look like, around that.”
Mr Finlay said he was aware that a substantial amount of money allocated by the federal government to support drought affected farmers, like low interest concessional loans, was “untouched”.
“That creates high angst and we have to continue to try and look at it,” he said.