Matt Canavan is travelling through north-west Queensland this week on a “listening tour”.
“I will be driving from Townsville to Mount Isa over the next four days with my eyes and ears wide open,” Senator Canavan said today. “I want to hear from locals about the issues that matter to them and talk about what they’re looking for from the Federal Government.
“This is my first major driving trip since coming into the Senate last month. The north-west is an important region but it’s a long way from Canberra and I am on a listening tour so I can take the concerns of people up here back to Government Ministers and other Coalition Members of Parliament.”
Senator Canavan flies into Townsville tomorrow morning and will hold meetings with local councils, landholders and other groups in Charters Towers, Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek, Cloncurry and Mount Isa.
He said one issue high on the agenda would be rural debt.
"What has happened in rural Queensland over the past few years is similar to the sub-prime crisis in the US. If you put a chart of rural land values next to US house prices, you would struggle to tell the difference.
"But, because this has happened far from the city, it is getting ignored. I would like to see a Senate inquiry into rural debt to examine the capacity of the rural sector to service and repay debt and what we can do to help alleviate it,” Senator Canavan said.
"My office has prepared a draft terms of reference and I will be seeking feedback on them during this trip."
Senator Canavan said he believed rural debt should be a high-priority issue for the Coalition Government.
“This is an area where my Queensland colleague, Senator Barry O’Sullivan, has already led the way and done great work in raising awareness. We need to make sure that our fellow MPs, as well as the general public, understand what a critical issue this is in the bush and, at the same time, talk to landholders about their views on how the problem should be tackled.”
Senator Canavan said other issues he expected to learn more about included the impact of the drought, the current situation with live cattle exports, landholders’ views on the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative, the Northbeef abattoir proposal, irrigated agriculture in the Flinders catchment, financial assistance grants to local councils and ideas for zonal tax rebates.
Tuesday 5 August 2014