Government must help the bush thrive

Opinion: Government must help the bush thrive

Opinion
A heifer on torched countryside at Cobargo, NSW, following the New Year's Eve bushfire catastrophe that has crippled many farmers. Photo by Clinton Leahy.

A heifer on torched countryside at Cobargo, NSW, following the New Year's Eve bushfire catastrophe that has crippled many farmers. Photo by Clinton Leahy.

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Rural Australia is on its knees, suffering an economic knock out from drought and bushfires.

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Rural Australia is on its knees, suffering an economic knock out from drought and bushfires.

The unprecedented disaster needing unprecedented action by government.

Many respected economists have called for the government to facilitate a commercial solution to the drought and bushfires, with long-term (25 years) low-interest funds that would offer huge stimulus for the bush.

Rural Australia has been hit with two major events that are ripping the heart out of our communities.

Many farmers are now crippled by unprecedented drought, so too are businesses that rely on the wealth generated by agriculture, while bushfire has decimated many farmers' coastal and regional businesses who are now desperately looking for long-term cash to get back in business.

Low-interest loans over 25 years would help put farmers and rural business back on their feet, allowing us to compete on a more level playing field with our overseas competitors.

Prime Minister Morrison is looking for an economic stimulus to boost the economy to ward off recession, and the Australian Farm Institute has identified agriculture needs $600 billion as a debt finance shortfall in capital to achieve productivity, and meet our target of $100 billion in gross farm output.

Agriculture will have to do the heavy lifting in carbon mitigation and environmental improvement, but farmers cannot be green if they are in the red, requiring funds to position us in a way to start the programs necessary to achieve national targets.

The exercise will have no impact on the surplus - all they have to do is establish a government guaranteed fund market, based on international finance at a world interest rate under 2 per cent over 25 years.

Rather than establish new administrative processes and institutions, they could allow commercial banks to facilitate the transactions on a commercial return of .5pc.

The Australian finance market revolves around the billions tied up in both the housing market and superannuation - neither of which are long-term, productive earners.

Australian investors also demand a strong income stream, where US investors are more interested in capital growth because of US taxation rules.

Consequently, longer-term funds are more readily available.

A recent article in The Australian said Macquarie Bank can access low "patient" interest finance.

This finance is not available to small farmers, making it impossible to compete with them on buying more farms when young farmers want to get started.

Rural Australia is a major contributor to national wealth, this initiative could help restore farmers and business people belted by drought and bushfires, while providing a significant boost to economic output.

The socialised methods currently used will not provide enough funds to get everyone back on their feet, so an additional strategy must be engaged.

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