February 26th 2000

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Power, strikes and privatisation


EDITORIAL: The end of General Wiranto?

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Kernot's leadership ambitions: unfinished business?

RURAL: Major debt crisis in rural Queensland

OBITUARY: William G. Smith SJ

FAMILY: The family strikes back

AUSTRIA: Haider: a warning rather than a threat

KOSOVO: They have made a desert and called it peace

ECONOMICS: Managing countries, managing companies

ASIA: Taiwan's poll a rowdy, close run thing

HEALTH: Treatable diseases rampant through Africa

BOOKS: Rabbi's defence of the Judeo-Christian culture, Rabbi Daniel Lapin

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Bush tells Canberra it won't be cajoled

Privatised power

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Major debt crisis in rural Queensland

by News Weekly

News Weekly, February 26, 2000
Figures on rural debt in Queensland depict an industry facing major crisis unless governments are prepared to take major steps to assist a significant proportion of farmers facing potential bankruptcy.

The figures were compiled by Hart Larwill chartered accountants in Brisbane, and are based on the Queensland Rural Agricultural Authority 1998 Rural Debt Survey.

The figures below show that thousands of farmers have debts larger than their annual production figures. For example, in the area from Mareeba to Hughenden, annual production was only 84% of their farm debt, while they had to pay interest of approximately $35,464.

Gross Income
Debt %
at 11%
Weipa to Normanton 81$509,395$385,456132%$43,363
Longreach to Charleville 679$201,441$278,42572%$30,985
Toowoomba to Goondiwindi 2,845$304,676$221,256137%$24,891
Bundaberg to Brisbane 5,976$247,395$213,638115.8%$24,034
Cairns to Mackay 4,369$328,708$288,345113.9%$32,438
Mt Isa 235$693,531$457,306151.6%$51,446
Quilpie to Cunnamulla 317$203,523$264,64976.9%$29,773
Emerald to Kingaroy 1,696$280,363$322,15587%$36,242
Roma to St George 2,785$290,685$327,92388%$36,891
* Regions as defined by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Research Economics.

The hardest hit areas are west of the Great Dividing Range.

It is believed that a large percentage of farmers are paying interest only on their debts and no redemption.

The Rural Debt Survey showed that the debt of farmers increased at double the rate of their gross value of production over the period 1994 to 1997.

It is believed that the situation of most farmers has deteriorated since the survey was conducted in 1998.
Further data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that in 1998 only 10% of Queensland farmers were debt free.

In some areas - like Weipa to Normanton and in the Mt Isa region - farmers were relatively better off. This was partly due to the reluctance of banks to lend to large pastoral holdings in those distant northern areas and partly due to better live cattle export prices.

The crisis facing Queensland farmers dramatically underscores why the state turned violently on the Federal government at the last elections.

It also demonstrates the need to have a rural development bank catering to the specialised needs of agriculture, for emergency aid to the industry and for a major review of an array of structural issues and government polices affecting rural industries.

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