Labor refuses to back PM's Future Drought Fund

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The Opposition will not back legislation to establish the Coalition’s Future Drought Fund, labelling it a “Nationals slush fund”.

Instead Labor says it would fund a drought response through a different funding model, if elected.

The Future Drought Fund was the centrepiece of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s 2018 drought summit and, would see $100 million a year go to help people prepare for, and respond to, drought from next year.

Money for that fund, which is modelled on the Medical Research Future Fund, would come from the Building Australia Fund, which has sat dormant since the 2014-15 financial year.

But Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said there was “no case for stealing money away from infrastructure projects”, and that the Opposition would fund its drought response — also at $100 million a year — in addition to the infrastructure fund.

“We support a heavy investment in long term drought planning and resilience building,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“What we will do is put $100 million on the budget every year and leave the Building Australia Fund alone.”

Mr Fitzgibbon said Labor would consult with farm leaders, agronomists, economists, and research and development corporations about the best way to spend the funding to help farmers respond to drought.

Farmers disappointed

In response to the Opposition’s drought funding policy, agriculture minister David Littleproud said that Labor had turned its back on regional communities.

“This dividend can be locked in by the Parliament now — not just through yet another rolled gold promise by Labor before an election which would be broken after the election,” Mr Littleproud said.

The National Farmers’ Federation was disappointed by Labor’s decision not to support the Future Drought Fund legislation.

“Labor is proposing to have $100 million that would be budgeted, so it might be there for one year, but no guarantee its going to be there for the next budget,” NFF spokeswoman Pru Gordon said.

“The Future Drought Fund means that that funding would be guaranteed and locked in.”

Ms Gordon said she was unaware of any attempt by Labor to discuss its drought funding proposal with the NFF.