A Senate battle looms over the Federal Government’s proposed long-term drought fund after it passed the first hurdle of parliament.
Legislation setting up the $3.9billion kitty was reintroduced to the lower house on July 22 by Drought Minister David Littleproud before being debated and voted on, a process that usually takes two steps.
The Coalition fended off multiple attempts from Labor to delay the debate, arguing it needed time to eyeball the bill before voting on it.
Despite previously opposing the bill, Labor eventually voted for it.
The ALP maintained its criticism the money should not come from the existing Building Australia Fund.
The BAF funds projects proposed by Infrastructure Australia, which Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese vowed to make ‘‘strong’’ again with a future Labor government.
A $100 million amount from the drought fund will go towards making grants or payments relating to drought resilience each year, while the bill also creates a five-person committee to provide the minister with funding advice.
Mr Albanese criticised the plan for not kicking in for another year, meaning only $200 million will be made available within this term of government.
But Mr Littleproud said the $3.9 billion kitty would help farmers and communities in future droughts.
‘‘It will enable farmers and their communities to fulfil their potential as productive and profitable contributors to the Australian economy,’’ he said as he introduced the bill.
Greens MP Adam Bandt said it was ‘‘appalling’’ the government pushed for a vote on the bill without giving members time to look at it.
The Greens are planning to introduce amendments to the bill in the Senate to ensure the fund has more parliamentary oversight.
Ahead of the parliamentary debate, Mr Albanese said the opposition would support ‘‘any level’’ of funding for drought-proofing measures, if it’s set aside in the budget instead of taken from the Building Australia Fund.
Mr Littleproud said the infrastructure fund Labor was concerned about had been redundant for five years, with the government separately spending $100billion on infrastructure.
‘‘You’re playing with the lives of Australian farming families,’’ he said.
The National Farmers Federation had also lashed Labor’s approach, saying the government’s fund is a ‘‘holistic, strategic plan’’.