DROUGHT FIGHT: Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes with Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Candidate for Flynn Zac Beers at Emerald's Fairbairn Dam, discussing the low dam levels.
DROUGHT FIGHT: Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Kerry Hayes with Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Candidate for Flynn Zac Beers at Emerald's Fairbairn Dam, discussing the low dam levels. Kristen Booth

CQ drought message hits home for Bill Shorten

THE message has hit home for Bill Shorten, who spent the last two days visiting drought-affected farmers in Central Queensland - they don't want handouts, they just don't want to be forgotten.

The leader of the Opposition was face-to-face with the severity of the condition faced by families in Western Queensland and irrigators throughout Emerald as he travelled from Longreach and Barcaldine back to the Central Highlands.

"There is no doubt, when you go and visit the dam, and you see the low water levels, this region's struggling,” Mr Shorten said yesterday.

"What we need is a government that's willing to back in not just small things, but long-term propositions.

"I think the LNP in Canberra need to get their priorities right - as you travel around Western Queensland, what matters here is quality health care, looking after the farmers and small towns who are hit by drought.”

The region's farmers are doing it tough, however Mr Shorten believes "it's not all doom and gloom” with initiatives he believes will make a difference.

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Candidate for Flynn Zac Beers at Emerald's Fairbairn Dam.
Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Candidate for Flynn Zac Beers on the campaign trail. Kristen Booth

Yesterday shadow spokesperson for agricultural matters Joel Fitzgibbon announced 100 additional Centrelink offices would be established upon election, allowing easier access to the Farm Household Allowance.

"We also need to give them immediate help, like cash on the kitchen table to get them through some very tough times,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"The farm household allowance system is broken, it's not helping farmers, it's complex, the hurdles are too high.

"We will also establish new mobile offices, taking the assistance to farming families.

"We need to get people out on the ground where people are hurting most.”

Mr Shorten revealed they proposed that the Farm Household Allowance payments of $12,000 "should be made immediately if farmers want it”.

"We want to see household payments to farmers - if the farmers need it now, I want them to have it now,” he said.

"Not just farmers, but the small businesses in these small towns and the contractors who are hard hit.”

It was also proposed that upgrades to irrigation channels can be completed to reduce the future risk of drought.

"I think we need to get more efficiency out of our irrigation channels,” Mr Shorten said.

"There's 100km plus of irrigation channels and what we need to do is make sure we are not losing water needlessly, I think that is the most sensible and sustainable option in the medium term.”