Treasurer Wayne Swan.TREASURER Wayne Swan was forced to intervene to calm irate farmers, peeved by a bureaucrat’s statement at a rural financial roundtable that the outlook for agriculture was positive.
Independent MP Bob Katter said tensions ran high at the meeting in Brisbane on Wednesday afternoon when a federal official told the group of farmers, bankers and academics that there was no crisis in farming.
“With a straight face, this person who advises the government says that agriculture is in good shape,” Mr Katter told The Australian Financial Review.
“That really got people’s goat. The Treasurer intervened and said he didn’t want any criticism of officials.
“It was very good that the Treasurer could see the world of unreality that his advisers live in.”
Mr Katter, who represents the federal seat of Kennedy in north Queensland, argues that the outlook for farming is bleak, that farmers are wallowing in debt and struggling to compete on global markets, given Australia’s strong currency and low farm subsidies.
But rural bankers and the government’s official forecaster, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences, are more bullish.
The latest quarterly ABARES report, issued last month, predicted that farm export earnings would “remain strong” in 2012-13 and be 24 per cent higher than the five-year average to 2010-11, reflecting the recent recovery from drought.
A spokesman for Mr Swan said: “We were encouraged by the open and robust conversation that took place yesterday and believe that everyone benefited from hearing the different perspectives in the room.”
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