Caltex has come under fire for pulling out of a drought-stricken North Queensland town its supplied with fuel for the past six years.
Former mayor and Georgetown business owner Warren Devlin says his roadhouse and supermarket carry about $400,000 a month in outstanding accounts, but when he asked his fuel supplier for more time to pay his bill, it cut supply and cancelled the account.
Mr Devlin says the loss of confidence of major companies during drought has devastating and wide-reaching effects on small rural towns.
“I think these major global companies really, really should take a good look at themselves, a good look at their business model,” he said.
“It’s imperative that they support the people when the times get tough, instead of the tough get going, you know what I mean.
“It is difficult times and when those people in the major cities can just sit there and make those decisions without any emotions or without responsibility, it just saddens me.
“So, yeah, we move on.”
Caltex declined to be interviewed, but in a statement indicated 85 per cent of its retail network was operated by independent franchisees.
It says there are a number of factors which led to the company and the site in Georgetown parting ways, though Caltex does not deem it appropriate to comment further.
As state and federal agriculture ministers ponder what more they might do to support drought-stricken graziers, Mr Devlin speaks candidly of the financial pressures of running a business when cash flow dries up and debt is spiralling.
“I don’t think people realise the stress that small business actually carries when this sort of thing happens to your community, but on the other hand, I’m not one to cry poor and want a hand out either, so I find myself in a very difficult position,” he said.
“My partner and I, we knock off between 10.30 and 1.30 every night and the alarm goes off at 5 o’clock and we start again, seven days a week.
“It’s bloody hard, it’s all I can say.”