‘No deals’: PM’s drought relief ultimatum

SCOTT Morrison's $3.9 billion fund for drought-stricken farmers could be 'robbing Peter to pay Paul', a senior Labor MP has warned.

Deputy Labor leader Richard Marles has indicated the party won't back the Prime Minister's drought relief in its current form.

It comes as the Coalition prepares to re-introduce the bill today as Parliament resumes for the first full sitting fortnight since the election.

Mr Marles insisted Labor supported relief for drought-affected farmers but raised concerns about the money coming from an existing infrastructure fund, the Building Australia Fund.

 

"As it stands, there's a real risk that this is literally robbing Peter to pay Paul and we want to understand how the government intends to make sure that there is the appropriate money there to support those farmers who are doing it tough in a way that then doesn't actually reduce the critical infrastructure that those farmers need," he told ABC News Breakfast this morning.

Labor agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon also raised concerns that the fund wouldn't kick in for another year.

"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.

Prime Minister Morrison will attempt to push the laws through with the support of the crossbench if Labor doesn't come on board, although he has warned there won't be any deals.

"Labor need to answer a simple question - will you support our farmers or not?" Mr Morrison told The Australian.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will attempt to push the laws through with the support of the crossbench if Labor doesn’t come on board. Picture: AAP
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will attempt to push the laws through with the support of the crossbench if Labor doesn’t come on board. Picture: AAP

"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.

The Perkins farming family, who grow tomatoes and capsicums, have had to cart water for 14 weeks to finish their crops off. Picture: Russell Shakespeare
The Perkins farming family, who grow tomatoes and capsicums, have had to cart water for 14 weeks to finish their crops off. Picture: Russell Shakespeare

"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.