KENNEDY MP, Bob Katter, says that the cancelling of Julia Creek’s Dirt n Dust festival is the most recent example of both the Federal and State Government’s “dereliction of duty and responsibility” to support small towns across Australia.
“Across the region show numbers have been down, in some cases numbers have been down as low as 40 per cent on previous years,” he said.
“Now when you combine this with the prohibitive increase in insurance for the carneys and side show operators, this is what will destroy what is left of our annual day for small towns.
“Towns like Tully with 7,000 people will often get more than 3,500 at the show on a given night. Now they are about to be destroyed altogether, vanishing from underneath us with no federal government intervention and a silly Premier who wants to spend her time being the hero of Covid while the last two outbreaks in the north have been at the hands of officers of the health department. This could not be a more appalling example of dereliction of duty and responsibility.”
Mr Katter paid tribute to the Dirt n Dust festival’s chief steward, Margie Ryder, who with her husband Geoff, got the event off the ground each year for the last 27 years.
“The loss of the Dirt n Dust festival is devastating,” he said.
“This most incredible lady has played a key role in building a massive business in North Queensland. Little Julia Creek with 700 people ran a competitive Rugby League team onto the oval under Margie Ryder and her husband.
“Dirt n Dust brought 3,000 people to a little town of less than 400 people. It got national publicity and generally kept us on the map and alive and fighting for a quarter of a century thanks to Margie Ryder – the feisty little fighter who is already a very great asset to Townsville.
“Events like Dirt n Dust at Julia Creek create community. The towns are too small to sustain rugby league and basketball teams and there’s not much of a social life because most people live on huge cattle stations and they are living at very great distances from one another, and they have virtually destroyed the ability to have a drink at the pub. The only time we get together is for these events and thankfully Margie is confident that when life gets back to normal, the festival will return under a new generation of leadership.
“But unless there is action on the sideshow insurance and insurance in Queensland in general, we will continue to see a very unbalanced impact upon our social life in out-town Australia.”
Mr Katter said that mid-western and Gulf towns once thrived, and he blames the sale of the railways and wool deregulation for populations collapsing and, in some cases, disappearing altogether.
‘’One town has gone from 4,500 down to 850, another has gone from 1,700 – 310 while some towns like Gunpowder have vanished completely – they just don’t exist anymore. Many little townships on the coast have ceased to be towns at all and the bigger towns haven’t grown, they’ve become stagnant.
“FIFO has the most destructive impact on population. The ALP Government sold the railways and subsequently sacked two thirds of the employees, Paul Keating’s ALP Government deregulated the wool industry, and it was the ALP State Government who introduced FIFO mining. Before all of this, all the towns in inland Queensland were growing and enjoying untold prosperity.
“The destruction of inland Australia can be put squarely at the feet of the governments and their free market, privatisation, sack-the-workers policies.”
Mr Katter said that irrigation projects like the Hughenden dam are key to solving the challenge of repopulating the mid-west.
“The Hughenden scheme is a scheme at its heart for close of settlement. Where you have got two cattle stations, you’ll probably have 150 farming families, and this will generate a restoration so long as it is operated under an owner/occupier cultivation and production model, and laws are introduced banning consolidation of ownership, which would stop one person coming in to buy it all up.”