In his first trip since being returned as prime minister, Morrison choked back tears while visiting Jacqueline and Robert Curley at their Cloncurry stud in the state’s northwest.
“It’s quite overwhelming, to come back and just see the spirit, that’s what I love,” he told the couple over breakfast on May 24.
“The spirit and the life here, and how, despite everything that happened, the fact that we’re all working together to rebuild.”
Morrison first visited the property in the direct aftermath of the February floods, which killed more than 2500 of its cattle.
Another 1500 calves also died from frost or exposure, wiping out one-third of the Gipsy Plains herd.
The prime minister said the smell of cattle carcasses stayed with him.
“That’s the thing that just completely overwhelmed me.”
Robert Curley said the deathly stench still hung in the air.
“It’s still there, Scott—it’s not as prevalent as it was—but you can pick it up all the way along.”
Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack inspected the property at first light, heading into a holding yard to feed some calves.
The pair then sat in the lounge room to watch a 10-minute homemade film of the floods.
“They were just dead everywhere,” Jacqueline Curley said, describing using a helicopter to winch surviving cows from the mud.
“We just had to shoot what we couldn’t get out.”
The cattle breeding family has received a $75,000 special disaster recovery grant, and are now leveraging concessional farming loans.
Jacqueline Curley said it would take more than 10 years to rebuild their stocks.
Many of the surviving cows are struggling with trauma, harming their chances of producing calves.
The floods also washed away top soils, stripping essential nutrients from the grass.
“We could be back in drought by the end of the year,” Jacqueline Curley said.
Morrison then drove several hours northwest to the Burke and Wills Campdraft, joining crowds watching horsemen and women compete in cattle work drills.
Among them was grazier Patrick Hick, from Julia Creek, who lost 6000 of his 16,000 cattle in the floods.
Hick likened the natural disaster to a war zone.
“I say to people you’ve all seen pictures of soldiers fighting in Flanders (World War I) with black mud up to their thighs,” he told AAP.
“That’s what it was like – and just cold and wet—most of our cattle died from exposure.”
Hick has used a government grant to fix some of his roads washed away in the floods.
But his business has taken a multi-million dollar hit, and will take many years to recover.
“We had a pretty strong business, but it’s not the business it is now,” he said.
“It’s not just one generation of work gone, it’s several generations.”
Arriving in Cloncurry late May 23, Morrison received a rockstar reception when he joined hundreds of locals for a beer and barbecue at the bowls club.
The prime minister paid tribute to the resilience of Queenslanders recovering from the natural disaster, which is thought to have killed half a million head of livestock.
More than $3.3 billion has been paid or committed to help farmers respond and recover.