Farmers in northern Queensland could be compensated for cattle who have died in devastating floods under a proposal from federal Labor.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says there must be a bipartisan approach and would be happy if the government wanted to ‘borrow’ his idea.
‘I put this idea forward to (Prime Minister Scott) Morrison on behalf of the cattle herders of Australia and the farmers: they should look at compensating for the livestock loss,’ he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
It’s estimated more than 500,000 cattle have died, along with 30,000 sheep.
The government is considering making more concessional loans available for farmers affected by the floods.
While the Queensland government and Regional Investment Corporation have loan schemes, the commonwealth is looking at extending lending to others grappling with the natural disaster.
Agriculture department secretary Daryl Quinlivan expects announcements in coming weeks about further measures to help graziers and farmers.
‘The prime minister has made it clear to everyone that a significant response to this natural disaster is a very high priority for the government,’ Mr Quinlivan told a Senate estimates hearing.
Mr Quinlivan said there was no way of telling how many animals had perished.
‘It’s too early to tell and it might be quite a while before reliable estimates are made,’ he said.
A cabinet task force met on Monday to consider recommendations to help suffering northwest Queensland communities after Mr Morrison visited the region last week.
The federal government has pledged $1 million each to flood-hit councils, while $75,000 disaster grants are also available.
On Tuesday, the prime minister told coalition MPs at a meeting about the heartbreak he had witnessed while visiting the area and gave every member a cap bearing the logo of cattle transportation company Pratt.
The caps are being sold online with funds going to charity.
The Labor caucus discussed the fact Centrelink had not sent extra staff to flood-affected areas, unlike following the 2009 Victorian bushfires, 2011 floods and 2013’s cyclone Oswald.