Dueling drought policies are shaping up to be a key election issue for major parties as the national poll approaches.
Labor has committed to match PM Scott Morrison’s $100 million commitment to drought support and preparation, and accused the government of stripping funds from the Building Australia Fund.
Mr Morrison created the $5 billion Drought Future Fund in September last year by re-badging the Building Australia Fund, which set up by the former Labor government in 2009 to fund transport infrastructure.
The government's Drought Future Fund will draw $100 million a year from the interest earned to spend on drought support and preparation measures.
Labor rejected this approach and has committed to instead deliver equivalent drought funding of $100m through annual budget expenditure.
Labor will vote against the Drought Future Fund’s enabling legislation in the Senate and pointed out the Senate’s scrutiny of Bills Committee noted lack of accountability for how the Drought Future Fund would spend its money.
According to Opposition Infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese and Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon, the Drought Future Fund would be used as a Nationals Party pork barrel at the expense roads and rail infrastructure.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the government’s fund guarantees a yearly dividend into the future, rather than “yet another rolled gold promise by Labor”.
He questioned the benefit of the Building Australia Fund for rural areas.
“Labor would redirect the money from the Drought Future Fund to outer suburban marginal seats and rural Australia would get nothing,” Mr Littleproud said.
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said “country people can’t trust Labor Leader Bill Shorten.
“His latest weak and short sighted decision to try and block the Future Drought Fund legislation in the Senate is the latest manifestation of that,” he said.
Mr Fitzgibbon said Labor would develop a Farm Productivity and Sustainable Profitability Plan under advice from a panel of experts, who would report back to a Labor government within 12 months of an election victory.