Prime Minister Scott Morrison has extended support to Queensland farmers with funding boosts to flood-affected farms and businesses impacted by the devastating one in 500 year weather event in February.
During a visit to Far North Queensland, which received the brunt of the torrential downpour last month, the PM announced new plans to help communities through the establishment of the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency.
The agency will work to develop a long-term plan to help struggling farmers through one of their toughest times, by allocating funding to rebuild on-farm infrastructure and restock herds.
This includes $75,000 grants to farmers in affected areas, $50,000 grants to small businesses in Townsville, Cloncurry, McKinlay, Richmond and Flinders and $2.6 million to support the mental health of communities.
A further $1 million each will be granted to local governments in the hardest hit areas such as Cloncurry, Flinders and Carpentaria, along with low-cost loans to banks that would be passed on to eligible farmers to provide them with interest rate relief.
Witnessing the terrible affects of the shocking flood during a recent visit to Cloncurry and Julia Creek, Morrison said the government is committed to helping those that need it the most.
“I met families who had been on the land for generations building their herd,” he explained in a statement released on Friday. “To see them washed away, lying in the dry mud, it’s just heartbreaking. We will help them and North Queensland rebuild, farm by farm, station by station.”
The prime minister went on to say how he understands the impact of the flood is different for everyone and they will listen to individual farmers to ensure their needs are met.
“Whether it be through restocking grants, concessional loans or mental health support, we are stepping up to the plate and pitching it. That’s what Australians expect us to do,” he added.
“This is not about compensation, it’s about rebuilding and reconstruction.”
The announcement follows calls from One Nation leader Pauline Hanson for “couch potatoes” on welfare payments, to get up and help support the farmers struggling in northern Queensland.
Standing in the small town of Julia Creek, which was hit hard by the extreme rainfall, the senator sent a stern message to the people of Australia, claiming those in receipt of benefits should be making the most of their time by lending a helping hand.
In a video shared on Twitter, Hanson targeted those Aussies who receive welfare, saying instead of “sitting around doing absolutely nothing”, they should give back to the community, specifically taxpayers.
“I’ll say to those couch potatoes out there, you people that have actually been getting your welfare dole cheques, sitting around doing absolutely nothing, maybe you just might want to register and try to get up here,” the politician exclaimed.
“Get in touch with local councils, give up your time to actually help these people mend their fences.”