Albo’s plan to reconnect with Gympie region farmers
FARMERS are doing it tough and they need a federal government that will work with them on drought and climate change issues, federal Opposition leader Anthony Albanese said in Gympie on Friday.
He promised a Labor Government would develop a comprehensive plan to address the problems faced by regional Australians as a result of weather and climate.
He said the current federal government did not have such a strategy and had dismantled some of the mechanisms that would have allowed state and federal governments to work together.
"There won't be an election for some time," he conceded, but said Labor would be ready when the time came.
Mr Albanese said he had driven 1300km this week along the long road towards rebuilding ALP support in regional Queensland.
That has included visits to mining, manufacturing and farming communities from Barcaldine to Emerald, Bundaberg and Maryborough, as well as Gympie region.
"And it's so dry everywhere," he said.
He was speaking at the Downsfield macadamia property operated by Ian and Candy Johnson and their daughter Sophia, in Sandy Creek Red, to Gympie's near north.
Mr Johnson told him the property had not had any rain at all for 74 days and that fall was not especially significant.
The property's dam had dwindled from a beautiful lake to a not much more than a puddle," Mrs Johnson said.
Mr Johnson put some figures on the property's drought problems.
"We would normally get between 1300mm and 1500mm or rain here a year, but this year it has been just under 400mm," he said, as Mr Albanese joined the Johnsons in a glass of the precious liquid, on their veranda.
"If we don't get rain this season, it will mean we can't feed the trees, or water them," he said.
This would severely affect yields for the next three years, because of the time nuts take to develop, he said.
"If we cut back this year, it will take three years to recover," he said.
"At the moment we're 10 to 12 weeks away from harvest.
"We will get to harvest this season, but we won't have a crop next year unless there is decent rain. The forecast is for a dry first half of the year, so it doesn't bode well," he said.
Mrs Johnson said she had developed the habit of watching every cloud and wondering, "Is it heading our way?"
Mr Albanese said Labor could not make it rain, but it could develop much needed strategies to help farmers and the nation deal with drought and climate change.
Macadamia industry pioneer Gympie region's Ian McConachie said India was a developing market and China was already a huge source of investment, as well as demand.
He said the federal government would be able to help the industry with a free trade deal with India.
"India is a massive potential market, but without a free-trade agreement it's almost impossible to get into," Mr McConachie said.