News

Nationals are hoping for big drought spend

By Geoff Adams

Nationals backbenchers are confident the Federal Government will spend more on the drought after demanding a $1.3 billion relief package.

The junior Coalition partner has presented a 10-point plan for cabinet consideration, with the proposal including $10 million cash injections for every council in a drought zone.

The Nationals have described the drought as a seminal issue for the regions and warned the party could lose votes to One Nation if it does not act.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce said the Coalition would be booted from government unless it pumped more money into the drought.

“If this drought keeps going, you've got to go ahead with extra funding, otherwise you just won't be the government,” he said on Thursday.

“I know the cabinet is coming forward with a package in the coming week. This has been through the National Party's policy committee, it's been through the Nationals’ party room, so it's Nationals’ policy.”

Nationals NSW senator Perin Davey said she expected cabinet and the expenditure review committee to discuss the proposal next week.

“If we don't get all of what we want, I can guarantee we'll get something,” she said.

Under the plan, community-based committees will get a say in where drought funding is targeted.

Senator Davey said Nationals ministers were in cabinet hammering home how hard the drought was biting in regional Australia.

“Unfortunately when the regions are doing it really tough, the spotlight falls onto us,” she said.

Mr Joyce said it was important for people to understand the Nationals were not sitting back and waiting for something to happen.

There has been some disquiet within the party about its leadership's stance on the drought, with some concern the prime minister is stealing the party's thunder.

But Senator Davey doesn't care who is talking about it, as long as the drought continues to be a top priority for the government.

She defended Nationals deputy leader and Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie amid rumblings of a challenge to her position.

“I think it's just people venting their frustrations without having a commitment to following through,” Senator Davey said.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese seized on the latest leak to renew calls for a drought "war cabinet".

“For goodness’ sake, why can't we all sit down and put the national interest first and come up with a co-ordinated, comprehensive, bipartisan national drought strategy?" he said.

Labor frontbencher Bill Shorten linked the Nationals’ "newfound" interest in the drought with a fight within the party over its leadership.

“There wouldn't be internal unhappiness in the National Party if the government had done the right thing on the drought,” he said in Canberra.