ISSUES consistently championed by Queensland Country Life over the years – controlling wild dogs, managing macropod pressure, banking practices, and poor telecommunications – were once again at the forefront of issues brought out at the bush forum in Longreach on Saturday morning.
Hosted by the Sunday Mail, in conjunction with Suncorp, and billed as establishing what’s required to help the west get back on its feet, the forum heard from speakers including deputy Premier Jackie Trad, Sydney solicitor Stewart Levitt and deputy police commissioner Brett Pointing.
One of those to make the biggest impression was Longreach grazier Joy McClymont who put the case for telecommunications speeds, capacity and pricing that is equivalent to urban standards, to much applause.
“It’s so important for connecting us for the future,” she said. “It would enable us to create our own pathways and would attract more sustainable business to our communities.
“Think about what you could achieve by giving us this. See the possibilities beyond the impossible.”
AgForce general president Grant Maudsley laid out three areas he thought would lead to sustainable bush communities if actioned – finance, planning security and wild dog and macropod issues.
“People are living off equity now – when the rain comes they’ll need to purchase livestock which will stretch that equity even more,” he said.
“They have had to sell livestock for four times less value than they’re worth now. We have to address the long-term issue of debt.”
It was a theme taken up by Stewart Levitt from Levitt Robinson solicitors in Sydney, who described bank insolvency approaches as a “cremation of assets for sale to overseas mates”.
“Banks need to demonstrate a responsibility to the financial system, not just act as money-lenders,” he said.
He included forum sponsor Suncorp in his criticism, which was rejected by its head of business customers, Kevin Potter.
“Suncorp believes in advocating for community resilience. We have a responsibility to help you through challenging times,” he said.
Opposition leader Lawrence Springborg was also on the panel and put forward four “pillars” for recovery – predator fencing to enable producers to run sheep and goats again, good broadband internet, vegetation management rights, and new water projects.
Deputy Premier Jackie Trad used the occasion of the forum to announce that the state government would donate $50,000 to the Western Queensland Drought Appeal.
“That will get the committee one step closer to the half million dollars they hope to raise from the weekend,” she said.
Around 2000 people attended the concert by Paul Kelly, Troy Cassar-Daly and Mick Lindsay on the steps of the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame on Friday night, which kicked the weekend off.
Queensland Country Life will have a full report on the weekend, including all the pictures from the concert and the 125th running of the Longreach Cup.