Australian PM's flagship drought fund faces defeat after Opposition rules out support

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-12 18:21:29|Editor: xuxin
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CANBERRA, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- The Opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP) has ruled out support for the government's proposed 5 billion Australian dollars (3.54 billion U.S. dollars) fund to help drought-proof farms.

Labor's agriculture spokesperson Joel Fitzgibbon on Tuesday confirmed the party's inner sanctum had agreed to vote against the Future Drought Fund, which is set to be introduced to parliament by Thursday.

Without the support of the ALP on the scheme, the governing Liberal-National Party coalition (LNP) faces an uphill battle in the Senate, the upper house of Australia's parliament, to establish the fund, which was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in October.

The LNP holds only 31 out of 76 seats in the Senate. The Greens, the third biggest party with nine seats in the house has also signalled its intention to oppose the bill, meaning the government needs the support of eight of the 10 remaining crossbenchers for the fund to be established in law.

Under Morrison's plan, the LNP would divert 3.9 billion Australian dollars (2.76 billion U.S. dollars) in unspent money from the Building Australia Fund, which was established by the ALP in 2009 to invest in key infrastructure projects, towards drought relief, with the total pool expected to grow to 5 billion Australian dollars (3.54 billion U.S. dollars) within a decade.

The money would be granted to individuals, state governments, universities and councils to further projects involving sustainable agriculture.

Fitzgibbon described the proposal as a "slush fund", saying it makes no sense to rob Peter to pay Paul.

Morrison toured farms on Australia's east coast that have been affected by the nation's worst drought in decades.