Anthony Albanese is backing farmers’ calls to have some drought-stricken regions declared natural disaster zones.
The Labor leader visited Stanthorpe in southeast Queensland on Wednesday, calling on the coalition to do more to develop an overarching drought strategy.
“Quite clearly this community is suffering from natural disaster,” Mr Albanese told reporters.
“On top of the drought, for them to suffer from that devastating fire, has had a real impact on the community.”
Mr Albanese says it’s not just farmers who are suffering from the extended dry spell.
“We’ve spoken to businesses last night and this morning that are really doing it tough,” he said.
“We’re coming up to the October long weekend. Frankly, normally the motels would be full around here, but they’re not.”
Water Resources Minister David Littleproud and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg are visiting Inverell in northern NSW to hear from farmers affected by the drought.
Inverell mayor Paul Harmon will meet the ministers on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m hoping that they get a full understanding of what’s happening in our New England region,” he told ABC radio.
“It’s very dry and very parched, we’ve had well below average rainfall, we’ve had less than 10 per cent inflow into our catchments for our town water supply.”
Inverell has already received one round of funding for drought-stricken communities, and is now hoping for a second Commonwealth cash injection.
Mr Harmon said stocks, pastures and forests were rapidly dying after three years of dismal rains.
“We are really starting to see our community struggling,” Mr Harmon said.
“Not only just our farming community, but now going right through our whole communities, through our retail and also those services that provide services for our rural communities.”
Meanwhile, Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon wants an inquiry into the coalition’s full suite of drought assistance programs.
He wants the auditor to examine “inexplicable” claims the coalition is spending $7 billion on drought initiatives, and to measure the value and effectiveness of each program.
Labor also wants to drill into the criteria underpinning the Drought Communities Program, and the government’s apparent reluctance to release a report from its drought co-ordinator.