Tony Abbott upstaged my rain in CQ
WHEN Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrived in Longreach on Sunday, locals rolled out the welcome wagon and put on a morning tea which included one of his favourites, scones with cream and jam.
But for some graziers, his arrival wasn't the most exciting part of the day.
Pat Hegarty of Colanya station, Longreach, received 125 millimetres of rain.
"It was very patchy so we were lucky to get it."
Although the drought is far from over, the rain has eased the difficulties of the past 12 months, he said.
"This property has been in our family for 60 years and this has been the worst year on record.
"This rain has completely turned things around."
Mr Hegarty has had to make a series of difficult decisions which have resulted in his stock numbers dropping from 9000 to 3000 sheep in a year.
"We had to move all the sheep up to one corner of the property that had a small pick but it was disappearing fast.
"We had a plan…we could hold on until the end of March and then we were going to sell everything left."
Like many, Mr Hegarty is running short of water.
"We have 10 dams on the place and only three have water left in them," he said.
"We had to sink a bore."
He has been feeding his stock grain and hay, and received assistance from the government for freight.
Mr Hegarty said it was a difficult problem to address.
"I don't know what else they can do," he said.
"The only thing that will really fix it is rain."
Local graziers joked that perhaps Mr Abbott was a rainmaker.
With Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Agriculture and Bruce Scott, Federal member for Maranoa, Mr Abbott said it was important to see the first-hand experience of people battling with drought.
"It's very clear from talking to a wide range of people here in Longreach that drought doesn't just impact on farms or farmers," he said.
"It impacts on communities, towns and ultimately on the whole national economy, particularly in places like Longreach."
Mr Abbott said he would announce a drought-assistance package in the next week.
The government has not provided a breakdown of the size or cost of the package, but has confirmed loan support and income support will form part of it.
"Drought is not just an economic addition, it's not just a state of weather, it is a natural disaster and that is why it is important that there be a strong and suitable; a fair and responsible government response," Mr Abbott said.