Australia: Government's $7b drought claim under fire - - PressFrom - Australia
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Australia Government's $7b drought claim under fire

05:50  22 october  2019
05:50  22 october  2019 Source:   msn.com

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Labor has put the blowtorch on the federal government's claim it is spending $7 billion on the drought, during a heated Senate estimates hearing in Canberra.© AAP Images Labor has put the blowtorch on the federal government's claim it is spending $7 billion on the drought, during a heated Senate estimates hearing in Canberra.

The Morrison government's much-trumpeted spend of more than $7 billion for drought relief has come under fire, with a Labor senator accusing senior ministers of lying.

Opposition frontbencher Murray Watt grilled Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie over the drought response during a heated Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Tuesday.

The majority of the $7 billion comes from the Future Drought Fund, a $3.9 billion drought-proofing kitty which is expected to rise to $5 billion in 2028/29.

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It will pay $100 million a year from drought resilience projects from next financial year.

Another $1 billion is available in loans through the Regional Investment Corporation.

Senator Watt said the true figure of what the government was spending on drought response was closer to $2 billion.

"You are lying to people about what your government is doing for drought," he told the minister.

He said Prime Minister Scott Morrison and senior colleagues were being "highly misleading" for using a figure that wouldn't be reached for 10 years.

"It's total rot these claims that you've got a $7 billion drought package," Senator Watt said.

In a tense exchange, Senator McKenzie emphatically rejected suggestions the government was misleading farmers by including future commitments.

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"The cost to the budget is as outlined, so if you want to argue the toss ... that's how much it costs," she said.

She said the fund would responsibly put away money to make sure drought resilience was built each year to help farmers and communities.

"It's not about coming up with a tip truck, dumping a load of cash."

Agriculture Department secretary Daryl Quinlivan also defended the figure, saying it was accurate because the government had planned to forgo revenue in future budgets.

He said talking about provisional costs to the budget was very common.

Earlier, Senator McKenzie was quizzed about reports Mr Morrison instructed coalition ministers to visit communities hardest hit by drought.

Senator McKenzie was blunt about the prime minister's directive.

"He's not the leader of the National Party," she said.

"National Party ministers and members don't need to be ordered to listen to drought-affected farmers."

Morrison hints at new drought-relief money .
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed a fresh round of drought relief is under cabinet consideration, with an announcement expected soon. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has foreshadowed fresh drought relief for farmers and communities under pressure from the extended dry spell. The federal government is expected to announce additional funding amid pressure from the Nationals and the National Farmers' Federation to help drought-stricken areas."We're considering further measures and have been for some time," Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

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