News National PM Abbott wants ‘first-hand’ drought tour

PM Abbott wants ‘first-hand’ drought tour

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he wants to see “first-hand” the impact the recent drought has had on Australia’s interiors, as he prepares for a two-day tour.

“This hasn’t just been a dry summer, it’s been a dry couple of years,” Mr Abbott said on Saturday.

“I’ve read the letters and emails that country people have sent me and I want to see for myself what’s needed to help our regional communities to respond to this drought.”

Mr Abbott and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce will tour western NSW and central western Queensland over the weekend to talk to farmers and community leaders about their plight.

He said he hoped the tour would help focus the government’s approach to tackling the problem.

“The government response must be targeted, effective and not caught up in red tape,” he said.

“I know that more needs to be done – and it will be done, in a way that’s fair and fiscally responsible.”

Shadow agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said the government has had plenty of time to consider a drought response ahead of the planned tour, and must at least be ready to legislate for a more accessible farm family payment upon its conclusion.

“A drought tour is all very well and good but it must be backed-up with immediate action,” Mr Fitzgibbon said in a statement.

As the prime minister prepares for his visit, the BoM says scattered showers and storms with some moderate falls are expected over some of the areas on the itinerary, with all drought affected areas set to receive some “useful” rain.

“While the rain will be very welcome where it falls, it is far from drought-breaking, with much of the affected area more than 100 millimetres below average for the last six months,” BoM forecaster Michael Logan told AAP.

The prime minister is expected to visit cattle and sheep farms around Bourke, Broken Hill and Longreach over the weekend.

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