The federal government is promising better support for Australian farmers under proposed new laws to streamline the rollout of loans and programs.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on Wednesday introduced to parliament a bill to establish the Regional Investment Corporation, which will be based in the NSW regional city of Orange from 2018.
The corporation will administer the government’s $2 billion farm business concessional loans from July 2018, as well as the $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility to give out loans to states and territories to build dams.
Mr Joyce said delivering programs and loans through the states – as it’s done now – was unwieldy and inconsistent.
The federal government has to negotiate separately with each state to change an existing arrangement or roll out a new program to farmers.
“Establishing the corporation will remove the middle man, allowing us to be more responsive in providing loans to farm businesses,” he told MPs.
“(It) will be a significant change in the way the Commonwealth works with farmers during times of need.”
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has promised to scrap the corporation if elected to government.
Labor has described it as a “Barnaby Joyce boondoggle”.
“You’ve only got to look at their record,” Queensland Labor senator Anthony Chisholm told reporters in Canberra.
The Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, created two years ago, had “not spent one cent or created one job other than for the executive”.
“We do know that one it gets close to an election they do try and pork barrel in their own seats,” he said.