Federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg has urged Australians to spend cash in drought-ravaged areas of the nation as he embarks on a tour of regions feeling ongoing pain from dry conditions.
Mr Frydenberg kicked off a three-day visit alongside Drought Minister David Littleproud at the central west NSW town of Inverell on Wednesday, meeting with businesses feeling the impacts of agriculture's struggles.
"If people can take a trip to these areas, spend money in these communities and back those small businesses the that will be important to them staying on their feet," he told reporters.
He said MPs in drought-affected areas were encouraging colleagues to spread the message far and wide to boost tourism in regions where farmers' pain was being felt in local economies.
Nationals MP and former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce asked the Inverell Chamber of Commerce President Nicky Lavender what she would do if she was a benevolent tyrant with a terminal disease running the country.
Ms Lavender told the politicians wage subsidies would help businesses grappling with sharp downturns in revenue amid drought.
Inverell mayor Paul Harmon said he welcomed donations from capital cities but people spending money in local businesses would inject money directly into the community.
The ministerial drought tour met with shoe shop owners and had coffee in a local cafe before spending a night with community and farming leaders in a pub to hear their concerns.
Mr Littleproud also defended Labor's criticism of the government trumpeting $7 billion in overall drought measures.
"Some of those programs have not been fully taken up - they are demand driven," he said.
He pointed to the Farm Household Allowance - a welfare payment for eligible farmers - and the Regional Investment Corporation loans as examples.
"Our commitment is about having an amount there that is there to support these communities get through this drought. They will be taken up as they are required and continue to be spent," Mr Littleproud said.
The bulk of the headline figure is the $5 billion Future Drought Fund, which will dole out $100 million a year for drought resilience projects from 2020.
The drought tour will head to the southwestern Queensland town of Stanthorpe on Thursday, which was also recently damaged by bushfires.
Australian Associated Press
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