Graziers at breaking point

GRAZIERS in north Queensland clinging to hope of government assistance are getting tired of waiting.

Cattle Crisis Committee chairman Barry Hughes said yesterday that while it was important to get it right, it was disappointing when the prime minister told graziers he hoped to have news in days, not weeks, when he visited Longreach on February 16.

“People are holding on by their fingertips at the moment,” Mr Hughes said.

He said the visit by Mr Abbott had given graziers hope.

“To turn around and keep shuffling back, there’s not enough strength in our industry mentally, financially and physically to handle those sort of disappointments.”

Mr Hughes said the situation was becoming so dire for some families that school teachers were noticing children’s concerns coming out in drawings and conversations.

“The industry is on its knees financially, physically and emotionally,” he said.

“People have got nothing else to hang their hat on except waiting for that assistance package.

“If it takes a little more time to get it right, then OK, but if it’s not taking extra time for the right reasons then holy hell we’re in a bit of strife.”

Mr Hughes said an assistance package needed to include cash grants for families to allow “people to put food on the table and pay the electricity or Telstra bills”.

He said it also needed to include investment into drought-affected areas to create new jobs and an investment in addressing mental health issues.

Mr Hughes said he was extremely worried about the mental state of drought-affected graziers.

He said people seeking help were becoming angry at the situation they were facing.

“In the first instance it was desperation and then it went to extreme urgency and now I’m finding we’ve got this vein of anger that’s coming through,” Mr Hughes said.

AgForce chief executive officer Charles Burke said graziers were becoming increasingly frustrated.

“Unfortunately the wheels of government and bureaucracy turn a lot slower than we’d like,” Mr Burke said.

“The most important thing at the moment is to get cash circulating in the communities,” he said.

“This isn’t just a drought that impacts pastoralists and farmers, it goes right through communities.”

Mr Burke said assistance to help graziers address income shortages, unpaid bills and debt was also desperately needed.

“We needed the announcements last year,” Mr Burke said.

An announcement from Mr Abbott is expected later this week.

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