Drought-ravaged towns declared ‘critical’ under state plan
Drought-stricken towns across NSW will be declared in "critical" need under a state government plan to sidestep red tape and deliver urgent water to communities.
Draft legislation, seen by The Daily Telegraph, identifies 18 towns and three broad localities for special treatment when considering new water infrastructure.
Major regional centres including Tamworth, Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst have less than 12 months of town water supply remaining, and an increasing number of small towns have less than six months, a state party room meeting was told.
In some cases the time required to assess and approve water infrastructure is longer than the remaining supplies.
The drought dominated national debate on Tuesday after a fiery interview between 2GB radio host Alan Jones and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who was criticised for the federal government's apparent lack of support for farmers.
Mr Jones took the Prime Minister to task, repeatedly pushing him for a response as to how the federal government's policies would help feed animals and enable farmers to stay on the land. "These (farmers) cannot survive," Mr Jones said. "What can you do today by way of cash injection to individual farmers to enable them to keep their breeding stock and not send them to the saleyard for slaughter?"
Mr Morrison said funds for transport and fodder for animals was a state responsibility, while $318 million in federal funding had gone to Farm Household Allowance, financial counselling and directly to shire councils.
"The government, whether it's state, federal or anyone else, we can do a lot of things to help people try to get through this," he said. "But the government can't make life as it was before the drought, and if anyone is suggesting that could be done then they are lying to the people of rural and regional Australia."
Last night Jones appeared on Sky News where he broke down in tears while discussing the matter, claiming Mr Morrison "just didn't understand".
"I begged him to provide fodder water and freight so farmers wouldn't have to send their breeding stock to slaughter," he said.
In Question Time, Drought Minister David Littleproud said the government's response to the unfolding crisis in regional Australia was ever-increasing as the conditions worsened. "Tackling drought is like going up a set of steps, as it escalates you take another step," he said.
Labor drought spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said if there was any possibility of the Army Reserve being deployed to help drought-stricken areas, it would likely be included in the yet-to-be-released report from the government's Co-ordinator General for Drought, Major General Stephen Day.
"The Major General would be best to determine if the defence force could play a role," he said.