PM rolls out $1b drought package to help recovery


FARMERS will be offered a $1 billion buy-now, pay later plan to feed their starving cattle - plus be encouraged to rapidly restock - under a regional stimulus package that also resuscitates struggling Queensland local businesses and towns.

Scott Morrison will today unveil a new five-pronged drought program that will be further bolstered if the drought does not break by early next year.

The response, which will be made with the Prime Minister and three Nationals by his side, reveals a step-up that aims to ring fence communities at breaking point, plus ensure farmers can capitalise when it does rain.

Pressure will now mount on the Palaszczuk Government to do more for Queensland, with Drought Minister David Littleproud calling on states to provide payroll tax relief.

Federal Drought Minister David Littleproud Picture: AAP Image/James Ross
Federal Drought Minister David Littleproud Picture: AAP Image/James Ross

A proposal modelled by Treasury to provide tax holidays did not have the support of several Ministers ahead of yesterday's crucial Cabinet meeting, with some warning it would lead to zonal taxation, a policy some Nationals have long advocated but rebuffed by Liberals.

However, some believe the proposal would be revisited if it does not rain.

Under the plan to be revealed today, farmers will be able to access up to $2 million in loans to replant, restock, buy feed, truck in water or pay their staff. The first two years will be interest free, an interest-only payment starts in years three to five and the rest requires principal and interest repayments.



Many cockies have sent their cattle to abattoirs because they cannot afford to feed them. By providing loans to help farmers restock, it bolsters their ability to get back on their feet for when it does rain.

The loans will be funded by the Government's Regional Investment Corporation, which already provides loans for drought relief.

Drought-declared communities will also have access to delayed, low-interest loans.

About $200 million in a "special drought round" will be redirected from the Building Better Regions Fund to give local government areas up to $10 million to create short and long-term jobs by refurbishing their towns.

Almost 130 local government areas will also be eligible to apply for a supplementary payment of about $140 million to upgrade roads - a move the Government hopes will attract tradies to towns to stimulate local economies.

Six more local government areas will also receive drought-relief, with a new $50 million discretionary fund to support councils,'' Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said he would keep providing more support as the drought rolled on, and he had been listening to farmers and communities.

"This is money in the pockets of our farmers to help keep their stock fed and watered, their staff and farm hands paid and their crops irrigated,'' he said.

"We also know the drought has been tough on small businesses that rely on agriculture.

"Rural communities can't function without these small businesses, that's why we are stepping in to provide this extra support."

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