Labor wants faster drought aid for farmers

The federal opposition wants the government to get cash help to drought-stricken farmers faster.Labor has called on the federal government to deliver its cash support payments to drought-stricken farmers faster.


Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Sunday up to $12,000 for eligible households spread across two payments on September 1 and March 1.

But with a dry spring and summer forecast, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten believes farmers should have the option of bringing the entire payment forward to next month.

“We support this package but it needs to be rolled out faster – farmers need immediate financial support,” Mr Shorten said.

The lump sum payments are on top of the Farm Household Allowance, which totals about $16,000 a year.

But the allowance’s application process has been criticised, with the government urging about 19,000 potentially eligible farmers to speak to rural financial counsellors.

Mr Shorten said he was deeply concerned government cuts to Centrelink would cause delays in processing applications.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the entire state of NSW is affected by drought, as is 57 per cent of Queensland.

There are severe rain deficiencies in Victoria and South Australia.

Mr Shorten will kick off a tour of some of the worst-affected areas of Queensland on Thursday, alongside his wife Chloe and the opposition’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon.

Labor also plans to implement a $20 million regional economic development fund which invests in projects to stimulate country economies.

“The regions have a bright future and Labor wants to ensure they have all the help they need to get back on track,” Mr Shorten said.

The Labor leader will travel to Longreach and Barcaldine on Thursday before going to Emerald in Queensland’s Central Highlands on Friday.