The cost to communities in lost public service jobs, and the burden of educating children in an environment of negative cashflow were emphasised at the Cloncurry section of the state drought review.
Julia Creek’s Scott Harrington said his small community, which has no secondary school top, had lost 30 government-supported jobs in the last two years, which all “snowballed in a negative way” on services such as school bus runs.
“Our primary industries have an aging population – what kids are born here, we’ve got to try and hold onto some of them,” he said.
He added that the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association lobby on these impacts should be supported.
Mr Burke said a similar issue had been brought up at the Charleville forum, and as a result, ICPA had been tasked with supplying an overview of how drought impacted rural education.
“Last drought, the state government paid a small extra subsidy for people in drought-affected shires – perhaps that could be reinstated,” he said.
The Member for Traeger, Rob Katter, commented that the drought subsidy was in play during the period of a hung parliament.
The additional pain felt by drought-affected communities when public service cuts were added to the mix were also touched on by Cloncurry mayor, Greg Campbell.
“This affects us in two ways,” he said.
“Firstly, the empathy for what we face is lost. Then, numbers are just less – for instance the Main Roads program is down 50 per cent but responsibilities haven’t changed.
“Whether it’s a drought or not, these people are getting a steady income, that in turn helps the communities they’re living in, and half of that is now lost to us.”
Road funding help
While not a direct state drought assistance measure, and often funded as much with federal money, Cloncurry drought forum attendees, led by Flinders Shire councillor Bill Bode, called for extra road funding to create more jobs locally.
When Mr Burke asked how that could be couched in terms of drought assistance, the meeting pointed out that it would also bring extra tourism revenue from people willing to travel on roads previously untrafficable to caravans.
Cr Campbell spoke of productivity improvements and the money the jobs created put back into towns.
“The key is that overall, the rural industry is still a great one to be in. Governments can’t lose sight of that. They just need to give people confidence to invest.”