News that feral pest fencing received $1 million in the state Budget last week wasn’t what the Member for Gregory wanted to hear.
Lachlan Millar said having only $1m allocated in the 2017-18 Budget added insult to injury for graziers in western Queensland battling the scourge of wild dogs and five consecutive years of drought.
“Continued investment in cluster fencing is critical to returning industry confidence back to a region which has been savaged by economic instability due to unprecedented drought conditions and other market forces,” he said.
Agriculture Minister, Bill Byrne, hit back, saying the government had committed $8.5 million in grants in the last two years, complemented with $9 million of investment by the federal government.
“The Queensland government has also committed to a one-off loan $18 million to the Longreach Regional Council that will lead to the construction of 2500km of fencing to protect 900,000ha of productive grazing land from wild dog predation,” he said.
“At the 2015 election we promised $5 million over three years to tackle the scourge of wild dogs.
“Since then we have established the Queensland Feral Pest Initiative and given our sheep producers the tools to break the back of the wild dog problem in western and south western Queensland.
“In the last two years, $31.2 million has been committed in grants and loans for wild dog exclusion fencing in key sheep producing areas.”
He described it as an “unprecedented investment” and challenged Mr Millar, a senior advisor in the previous Newman government, to compare that with that government’s investment, saying it was unknown what the LNP would commit to cluster fencing projects.
Wild Dog commissioner and SW NRM chairman, Mark O’Brien, has previously said it’s not right to keep giving the money to people who’ve got the productive capacity to pay for fencing.
Mr Millar said it beggared belief for anyone to think that after five years of failed wet seasons, the west was able to start funding cluster fences without help.
“People are hanging on by their fingernails and trying to increase their profitability,” he said.
“I would have expected $5m in the budget. That’s small change compared to the money in the Budget for the Cross River Rail project.”
He said the $18m scheme with the Longreach Regional Council couldn’t be counted as part of the government’s commitment as people would be paying the money back to the government.
The LNP has not yet committed to its own cluster fencing promise in advance of the state election, but Mr Millar said he was sure an announcement would be forthcoming.