Labor insists it wants to do more for drought-stricken farmers, as it remains concerned about the federal government’s proposed long-term drought fund.
The $3.9 billion Future Drought Fund for drought-proofing projects it set to be re-introduced to parliament on Monday, the first day of the first full sitting fortnight since the federal election.
But Labor, which has already knocked back the fund once in parliament, remains unconvinced it is the best way to help producers doing it tough.
The opposition has taken issue with the coalition’s plan to draw the fund from an existing infrastructure kitty.
Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon is also worried the fund won’t kick in for another year and about uncertainty on how the money will be spent.
“We still don’t know what the government is going to spend the money on, there’s been no detail on that whatsoever,” he told ABC Radio National on Monday.
“We still don’t understand why the government wants to take money away from important infrastructure projects – roads, rail etc – including in regional Australia, to pay for another important measure.”
Despite its issues with the bill, Mr Fitzgibbon insists Labor stands ready to support farmers.
“The parliament is absolutely united on this question, we all want to do more for drought-affected farmers.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has questioned whether that is the case, saying there won’t be any deals done to secure the passage of laws setting up the fund.
“Labor need to answer a simple question – will you support our farmers or not?” Mr Morrison has said ahead of the debate.
“Drought funding is not something we should be having to make deals on, it should be a no-brainer, something that should just get done.
“So there’ll be no deals, just a simple request to vote for the bill that will provide for long-term drought resilience works. It’s quite absurd that Labor have opposed it for this long already.”
Mr Morrison said the government was able to fund $100 billion in infrastructure as well as the drought fund.
“There is not one road, there is not one dam, there is not one railway sleeper that has been taken away from our infrastructure program by going ahead with the Future Drought Fund.”
Greens leader Richard Di Natale said the government has a record of funnelling money into pet projects.
If it was serious about the drought, it would have a comprehensive climate change policy, he says.
“You don’t fix what is going to be a long-term problem of more severe, more frequent drought unless you tackle the central cause, and that is the breakdown of our climate,” Senator Di Natale told the ABC Insiders program on Sunday.