Farmers are facing mounting costs as they hand-feed their animals and wait for rain. (ABC News: Courtney Bembridge)
Soldiers could soon be deployed to help drought-stricken farmers, as the crisis worsens across New South Wales, Queensland and parts of Victoria.
Defence Minister Marise Payne has confirmed state governments are able to request the military assistance, similar to help provided for other natural disasters.
“One of the things that we do have the capability to do is certainly to assist with the movement, for example, of bulk stores by air or by road,” Senator Payne told Macquarie radio.
“We can airdrop stores to remote areas where there’s no airstrip available and I think that’s something which the states would not have a capability to do.”
Farmers are facing mounting costs as they hand-feed their animals and wait for rain and the Federal Government says it will review a key assistance measure for drought-ravaged property owners, acknowledging many who are eligible have not applied.
Large swathes of New South Wales and Queensland have been in drought for periods ranging from one to seven years.
The ABC understands the Defence Department has begun preliminary planning for the Army to help drop livestock fodder to farms, if affected states request it.
“We can certainly look at assisting with the movement of the bulk stores by air or by road and whether it’s trucks or aeroplanes, as long as it’s delivering fodder, if that’s what the states need, then that is a good outcome,” Senator Payne said.
But Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon has rejected the idea.
“In the 21st century, our Australian Defence Force are highly skilled, trained and not so badly paid professionals,” he told Canberra radio station 2CC.
“We don’t want to, having invested the money in them, turn them to farm labouring.
“They need to be focused on their first job at hand and that is defending the nation and our interests.”