Politicians back aid for farmers

CENTRAL Queensland politicians from the three tiers of government have backed moves to help farmers survive the next 12 months.

The Observer spoke with Gladstone Regional Council Mayor Gail Sellers, Banana Shire Council Mayor John Hooper, Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Peter Maguire, Federal Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd and independent State Member for Gladstone Liz Cunningham about Exceptional Circumstances (EC) declarations.

They either supported the idea of all Queensland flood areas being EC-declared, or having the same financial assistance available to farmers as EC declaration benefits.

“The damage that has been done is very exceptional,” Ms Cunningham said.

“It's something that is unprecedented.”

She said the level of giving from the Australian community was astronomical and the community expected the governments to match that to get production areas working again.

“All the areas definitely need EC declaration so there's a future for the nation and the state. If the people didn't think the situation was serious, they wouldn't have gone to the level that they have.”

Mr O'Dowd wrote to the Prime Minister a week ago asking Central Queensland to be EC-declared.

“Farmers and contractors are contacting our office expressing concern that the current funding offers are too hard to access and the amount on offer falls well short of providing any meaningful assistance,” he said.

“All this will take an enormous amount of money and too proceed with the NBN at this time when Queensland is suffering so badly would be a crime.”

Cr Hooper said he had raised the question of interest rate subsidies for farmers twice this month, firstly at a meeting with Federal Minister for Regional Australia Simon Crean and five mayors in Emerald, as well as at the Queensland's Flood Recovery Taskforce meeting in Brisbane yesterday.

Cr Maguire said EC had, to his knowledge, been used only in drought circumstances.

The website outlining criteria does not exclude flooding.