By Paul Dobbyn
LONGREACH priest Fr Matt Moloney has been besieged with phone calls from desperate farming families from around Queensland since his call for a moratorium on bank foreclosures on drought-stricken farms.
The priest, who grew up on a property west of Longreach, said he would keep raising his voice until the government and banks alleviated “catastrophic pressure” on farming families.
“I’m hearing stories from people in terrible circumstances,” he said.
“One case that comes to mind is of a family evicted from a property who were then charged something like $400 to $600 a day for someone to manage the unoccupied property.
“Banks are abusing their power … it’s an abomination, particularly when you consider the billions of dollars in profits the big banks are making.
“When the banks foreclose these families walk away with nothing…the bank still has its assets.”
Fr Moloney (pictured) is also concerned about the lack of care being shown by all levels of government.
“The Prime Minister (Tony Abbott) visited Longreach in January this year and saw the situation at first hand,” he said.
“Barnaby Joyce brought Treasurer Joe Hockey out to Charleville in May but all the politicians are doing is talking about the problem.”
“Mountains of government paperwork” to get drought assistance are another major burden for struggling farming families.
“The government keeps saying many people have received this assistance, but thousands haven’t,” he said.
“There are people on properties out there living on Weet-Bix and noodles.
“They’re often asset rich but income poor.
“Faced with pressure on other fronts such as from banks, they just give up trying to get government support.
“Why can’t the government let these families use their tax returns to sign an affidavit to say they’re in drought and their income is not likely to improve?”
Mental health in farming communities is suffering as a result.
“This year alone Lifeline has reported more than 8500 calls for help from these communities,” Fr Moloney said.
Member for Gregory Vaughan Johnson called on community leaders to raise their voice in protest at the treatment of families.
Various gatherings have prayed for rain upon the parched earth of outback Queensland.
Townsville diocese’s administrator Fr Mick Lowcock was involved one of the most recent prayer gatherings after two failed wet seasons in Mount Isa.
“We are not alone in this situation but there are many places in this world that suffer from drought and we look forward to everything being awash,” Fr Lowcock said.
“We ask the Lord to send us rain.”