Government drought envoy Barnaby Joyce
Government drought envoy Barnaby Joyce

Barnaby’s plan to ‘bale’ out farmers

TAXPAYERS could underwrite a massive cut-price contract to buy frost-damaged wheat to feed livestock in drought-affected regions of Queensland and NSW, under a Federal Government plan.

The government's drought envoy Barnaby Joyce has brokered a deal for about 7000 tonnes of frost-damaged crops from Western Australia to be sold to farmers on the east coast to use as hay.

The deal is being used a test case that could lead to a deal for up to two million tonnes of damaged grain to be used to keep animals alive on drought-ravaged farms.

Under the plan, the Government would underwrite the contract to give certainty to the West Australian farmers and ensure the sale goes ahead, News Queensland can reveal.

For the first shipment, the crop will be sent by train from WA to Parkes in NSW, from where it will be distributed to other drought-affected areas.

Mr Joyce said the plan was one of a number of practical measures the Government could use to help farmers.

He also wanted to fast-track infrastructure projects in bone-dry areas to create jobs and stimulate local economies.

Each project also would need to provide a national benefit to be given support, Mr Joyce said.


Government drought envoy Barnaby Joyce
Government drought envoy Barnaby Joyce


Remaining parts of the highway between Birdsville and Mount Isa that are yet to be sealed are likely to be one of projects targeted under the plan.

Mr Joyce is also investigating measures to support towns in drought affected areas, saying he wants to help "the person from Longreach... keep the whitegood store open".

The plans come as Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a national drought summit next month to come up with new ideas to help struggling farmers.

The summit, to be held on October 26, will discuss options including new welfare handouts and streamlined processes to make it easier for farmers to apply for taxpayer funded assistance.

"We will look at actions to deliver assistance, cut red tape and tackle gaps that need addressing," Mr Morrison said.

"We're ensuring families and communities in drought-affected areas are getting what they need.

"We need to act and respond to the immediate issues while we are putting in place better frameworks for long-term preparedness and resilience."