Outback families battling drought get help from Thoroughbred Breeders Queensland Association

Updated February 14, 2015 15:25:27

Queensland's thoroughbred industry has ramped up an appeal to raise more money for School of the Air families still battling the drought.

The Thoroughbred Breeders Queensland Association last year sent hundreds of gift hampers to families at Schools of Distance Education in Charleville, Longreach and Mount Isa.

The Association's Stan Johnston said hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of support would have been distributed, but the need still existed.

"We've sent stuff to well over 1,000 kids. We are probably looking at around $400,000-$500,000 now in the last two months," he said.

While there has been some rain across inland areas, Mr Johnston said many areas were still hoping for respite.

He said the appeal was now aiming to raise $30,000 to support a home tutors workshop, so isolated mothers and governesses could travel to the Longreach School of Distance Education for a four-day event.

The children from stations would also attend mini-school during that time.

Mr Johnston said Racing Queensland was also fully supportive of the effort because it realised the impact the ongoing drought was having.

"It has taken a fair toll apparently on everyone out there," Mr Johnston said.

"We are not a charity. We are just a group, an industry trying to help people out west.

"And we are a big industry. We are trying to motivate the racing industry to be more involved in public awareness and the community and we are really starting to see the benefit of that now."

There has also been an effort to connect those who have donated with the distance education students.

"One of the best things we've done I think, is that we've made it a personal thing, like the donors keep in touch with the receivers," he said.

"The kids have emailed the donors and thanked them, and I think it is a bit unique because it has excited both parties."

Mr Johnston said a major Sunshine Coast newspaper would also be involved in raising awareness about the current conditions.

Sunshine Coast Daily editor Jenna Cairney visited Longreach earlier this month to meet with parents and students attending the Longreach School of Distance Education.

She said her eyes were opened to some of the challenges families were facing.

"For example, how short people are for water when the dam runs dry, kids can't have their hair washed and mothers have to bring the washing into town," Mr Cairney said

She said her paper would support the appeal by raising awareness among coastal residents.

"I think it's essential, anyone in Australia would appreciate the fact that every single child needs and deserves a decent and fulfilling education," she said.

"If they [parents] can't come into these workshops, they can't learn how best to teach the children at home, and it is a really complicated system which involves technology, satellite technology, telephone, and a different learning system certainly than what I am used to."

Ms Cairney said a lack of cash flow might hinder parents' ability to attend school functions.

"Anyone else, we might not even think about the cost of fuel, but that is an expensive, expensive trip for people who don't have the cash flow and don't know when the cash will start flowing again," she said.

Mr Johnston said anyone keen to support the cause could contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Topics:drought, rural, longreach-4730

First posted February 14, 2015 15:13:17

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Updated February 14, 2015 15:59:40

The Prime Minister has replaced Philip Ruddock as chief government whip to allow a "deeper engagement" with his backbench but the move has rekindled discontent in Coalition ranks.

Tony Abbott made the shock announcement yesterday that he was dumping the veteran MP from the key position in the aftermath of this week's failed attempt to spill the leadership.

Mr Abbott was today asked by reporters in Sydney if the move was an act of retribution.

"No, not at all," he replied.

"Philip Ruddock is a friend, Philip Ruddock is a colleague and Philip Ruddock was a supporter.

"But what I am determined to do is have a deeper and stronger engagement with the backbench and that means it was very important to renew and refresh the whips team," he said.

Some of Mr Abbott's supporters believe Mr Ruddock did not do enough to publicly rally support for the Prime Minister and should have done a better job of picking up on backbench disquiet in the weeks leading up to the failed attempt to spill the leadership.

But some MPs who wanted a spill are bewildered and confused by Mr Ruddock's sacking - one saying "the night of the long knives has begun".

Others described it as "another captain's call" that had gone down badly within the party.

Queensland backbencher Andrew Laming has gone public with his criticism, describing it as "scapegoating of Godzilla proportions".

"We really needed a week of healing, not wounding, and I think it really has set us back a fair bit particularly because Philip Ruddock was such a respected character," Mr Laming told the ABC.

Mr Laming said he spoke to Mr Abbott yesterday and told him what he thought.

"Regardless of the reasons, regardless of what you write in a press release, the perception when acting in this way in this week will be that it was one of recrimination," Mr Laming said.

But Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said Mr Laming had "ulterior motives" given he supported the spill motion.

Mr Frydenberg rejected suggestions the Prime Minister's decision was retribution and said he spoke to Mr Ruddock this morning.

"He understands that this is a decision for the leader to take," Mr Frydenberg told Sky News.

"I think this is a decision that is just within the normal course of what happens within government."

Mr Ruddock is not commenting about the decision, except to say the position of chief whip is the gift of the Prime Minister.

Mr Ruddock, who is known as the "Father of the House" for being the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, will be replaced by Queensland MP Scott Buchholz.

Tasmanian MP Andrew Nikolic, a prominent supporter of the Prime Minister, will also be promoted to a whip position.

He said he did not see it as a reward for publicly urging his colleagues against a spill.

"The reason I did that was not for any reward, but to say to my colleagues that the last thing we should be doing is demonstrating the sort of disunity that the Australian people comprehensively rejected," Mr Nikolic said.

I am determined to ... have a deeper and stronger engagement with the backbench, and that means it was very important to renew and refresh the whip's team.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott

Mr Frydenberg has welcomed the appointments.

"In Scott Buchholz we have a very good man who will be our new whip, and Andrew Nikolic as a deputy who's also very experienced in rounding up the troops if you like," Mr Frydenberg said.

Mr Abbott earlier paid tribute to Mr Ruddock in a statement confirming the changes Friday afternoon.

"I acknowledge and thank the Hon Philip Ruddock MP for his extraordinary contribution to our country, this Government and the Liberal Party," Mr Abbott wrote.

"As Father of the House, Philip has given over four decades of service to the Australian Parliament and the Australian people.

"He was a senior minister throughout the life of the Howard government and was shadow cabinet secretary in opposition.

"Later this year he will become the second longest-serving parliamentarian in our history."

The move had been under discussion for more than a day.

The two men met after Parliament rose on Thursday.

Topics:liberals, liberal-national-party-queensland, political-parties, government-and-politics, federal-government, federal-parliament, abbott-tony, australia

First posted February 14, 2015 10:56:08