Minister responds to 'disappointing' office closure claim
THE State Government has shutdown rumours about cuts or closures to regional Department of Agriculture and Fisheries offices, including Maryborough.
The Opposition claimed up to 18 DAFS offices could be affected but Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries, Mark Furner, denied this was the case.
"No DAF office is closing its doors and no Queensland public servants are losing their jobs," he said in a response to the Chronicle.
"All of these DAF offices will continue to provide critical support for our essential agricultural industries."
Opposition leader Deb Frecklington this week accused the State Government of "slamming the door on desperate farmers".
Ms Frecklington said the DAF offices provided farmers with vital face-to-face help when applying for drought assistance or seeking advice on complex biosecurity issues.
She said an internal document leaked by public servants said the COVID crisis had given DAF a "unique opportunity" to review its "service delivery model".
"At a time when drought-stricken farmers are looking for more assistance from the government, Labor is slashing their services after a secret review," Ms Frecklington said.
"This is clearly a cost-cutting exercise because Annastacia Palaszczuk has lost control of the state's finances and our debt is surging towards $100 billion."
Ms Frecklington said staff had been instructed to tell angry farmers their services would be replicated through a help hotline and "digital service delivery".
The Opposition named the offices targeted for cuts or closures as Bundaberg, Mackay, Boonah, Charleville, Charters Towers, Cloncurry, Dalby, Emerald, Gayndah, Goondiwindi, Gympie, Longreach, Maryborough, Roma, Hermitage, Kingaroy, Mareeba and Maroochy.
Mr Furner said all the offices would remain open.
"All DAF front counter services were suspended due to COVID-19 earlier this year, with counter service resuming in recent weeks," he said.
"Over that period we responded to more than 18,000 calls and 2200 emails, supporting the agricultural industry through new COVID-19 safety requirements and contributing to Queensland's overall COVID-19 effort.
This process helped identify that some customer interactions could be more easily, efficiently and safely dealt with online or over the phone.
"It is disappointing that the LNP is trying to frighten Queenslanders into thinking DAF offices will be locked up when they won't be," he said.