Labor says Prime Minister Tony Abbott needs to make a decision on whether the government will provide drought assistance as soon as this weekend.
The prime minister’s tour of drought-hit regions this weekend won’t be meaningful if it’s not backed up with concrete assistance, the federal opposition says.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott is expected to tour drought-hit areas of Queensland and NSW this weekend ahead of a cabinet consideration of a drought assistance package sought by struggling farmers.
Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon says the tour will help Mr Abbott fully appreciate the severity of the crisis, but his response to farmers’ requests is more important.
“Having a look’s not good enough. Farmers need help, and they need it yesterday,” he told reporters.
Mr Fitzgibbon said the government should accept the drought assistance package proposals made by the National Farmers Federation, including relaxing the criteria for the farm household payment and enhancing the farm finance package.
He also wants to see a resurrection of the Standing Council on Primary Industries, which brought together state agricultural ministers to make long-term drought reform agreements at the federal level.
NFF president Brent Finlay, who will accompany Mr Abbott on the tour, said he was hopeful for an announcement to their package of measures soon.
“Generally when politicians go bush, sometimes they bring … some sort of announcement, but we don’t know,” he told reporters on Thursday.