FEDERAL Independent MP for Kennedy, Bob Katter, says direct negotiations taking place today and tomorrow between the Beef Crisis Steering Committee and prominent government officials are likely to yield even greater benefits for the northern Australian cattle industry.
Mr Katter spoke exclusively to the North Queensland Register and said discussions between the Steering Committee and himself had already yielded great benefits, including the $420 million at risk federal government concessional loans and the positive Indonesian quota outcomes.
“What we would like to see come out of this trip is for the $420 million reconstruction monies to be used as a bank and therefore a revolving fund. We agree with Rowell Walton the chair of the Australian Debt Summit Council that this bank is a fantastic intermediate measure.
“Additionally, we would like to get the government to take 100,000 or even 50,000 head of cattle off the market by giving the cattle to Indonesia as a goodwill gesture or foreign aid.”
Mr Katter said he’d had continuing discussions with the Indonesian Ambassador since the live export ban in 2011, the latest of which unveiled that the Ambassador has some sympathy for Australian cattlemen.
“The Ambassador expressed concern over the figures he had been given – that detail, the price per kilo our graziers are paid. The Australian cattleman is paid $1.90 per kilo and yet the Indonesians had to pay over $3.90 per kilo. He described this very politely and diplomatically as a ‘disconnect’.
“Before the live export ban in 2011, we were exporting 593,000 head of live cattle and 72,000 tonne of boxed chilled processed meat to Indonesia.
“After the live cattle bans, we ended up with 267,000 head and 32,000 tonne of boxed processed meat quoted for this year.
“The current situation is that the entire 2013 quota has been jammed into the first half of the year and we hope that they will give us a quota for the second half of the year.
“We will push to ensure that the original 130,000 of boxed meat for the second half of 2013 is provided.
“Boxed processed meat has been declared virtually unlimited for 2013, but if we can secure that extra 130,000 tonne quota to fill the third and fourth quarter and if we can find buyers for 40,000 or 50,000 tonne of the boxed meat, then this will lift 200,000 tonne off the supply chain.
“The late Ron Cam Deputy Premier and leader of the sugar industry said 5 per cent over supply and you are dead – there is no bottom in the market. At the moment we turn off about 8 million head a year in Australia so this 200,000 tonne would be take care of half of that 5 per cent.”
Mr Katter said that the he and Steering Committee would be placing increasing pressure on the State Government that is yet to give even a single cent towards this crisis.
“It is the first time in my 40 years of politics that I have seen a crisis of this proportion and the State Government not provided a single cent of assistance or relief. We are five months into the crisis now and still we haven’t got a single cent.
“We are not congratulating the federal government when one of the significant reasons we are in this hole in the first place is because of the towering incompetence of their live cattle ban.
“The Reserve Bank has given us a little bit of light a reduction in interest rates combined with an admission that the dollar is too high and needs to be addressed. This attitude of the RBA is vitally important.
“Senator Joyce and the Treasurer Swan both assured us that there was nothing that could be done about the interest rates and the dollar. It is unfortunate for them that the RBA acted and proved them both wrong and that I was entirely right.”