Scott Morrison insists a $3.9 billion drought-proofing kitty won’t affect the national rollout of roads and rail lines, after Labor urged the government to find another source for the cash.
The Prime Minister hit back at Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese, who says the $100 million-a-year Future Drought Fund should not be fuelled by money originally allocated for infrastructure.
Mr Morrison said no project within the government’s infrastructure plan would be affected when the Building Australia Fund is repurposed for future drought projects.
He said no footpath, dam or railway sleeper would miss out if the Future Drought Fund went ahead.
“Any suggestion by Anthony Albanese that is the case is just rank misrepresentation. He is constantly looking for excuses to oppose things,” the PM said in Dubbo on Thursday.
Mr Albanese said he didn’t want to see money for drought come at the expense of infrastructure funds to help regional and rural communities.
“I say to the government: Don’t play politics with this. It is too important. Just stop it,” he told a bush summit, organised by The Daily Telegraph.
“Provide the funding – with appropriations, as you should – and we’ll back it.”
The Future Drought Fund legislation will be on the government’s agenda when parliament resumes next week, along with laws to make inciting farm invasions illegal, following several incidents involving vegan activists.
“Those laws have been introduced to criminalise these actions of these cowardly keyboard warriors who incite crimes,” Mr Morrison told the summit.
The Prime Minister pledged to set up a new House of Representatives select committee, chaired by SA Liberal MP Tony Pasin, to look at success stories in regional Australia.
He said $500,000 a year would also be given to Soils For Life, a non-profit program working on agricultural land management.
Former governor-general Michael Jeffery will be recalled as national soils advocate to drive the program.
As he addressed the summit, Mr Morrison restated the government’s policy to support Australian agriculture becoming a $100 billion industry by 2030.
He also wanted to focus on measures like making the Farm Household Assistance payment available to farmers for four in every 10 years.
“The here and now in rural Australia is very much about drought. Unrelenting drought,” Mr Morrison said.
“A drought that is measured in years and is taking its toll and wearing away even the strongest souls and the strongest communities.”
Senior Nationals including Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie and Parkes MP Mark Coulton were also at the Dubbo event.
Former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce used a question and answer session to make an impassioned plea to build the long-mooted Bradfield irrigation scheme.
“We have to have some vision,” he said.