Australia's Turnbull: 'Now we are the land of droughts'

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Some 20,000 farming households will be eligible for lump payments of A$12,000 under the assistance scheme.

The first payment will be made at the start of August, with the second on 1 March next year.

"This will help farmers, who may be notionally asset rich but cash poor, access additional support without having to jeopardise the income-producing capacity of their farm by selling farm equipment", the government's statement said.

Dry farmland across eastern Australia is not predicted to get soaking rains through spring or summer. The payments will mean that farmers and their families will be better supported to cover their everyday costs and reduce some of the pressures they face in managing their farms and providing basic essentials for their families.

The government believes as many as 19,000 farming families are eligible for the FHA but have not applied for it.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Channel 9 it's a bleak time.

"We can't make it rain".

"It's a very volatile and often capricious climate and Australian farmers are resilient, they plan for drought, they are good managers but it can become really overwhelming".

"We have their back", Mr Turnbull said. I can say from my own experience, it's worse than the millennium drought in '06-'07 and a lot worse than the '82-'83 drought, which was also one of the worst.

As part of the funding, there is also a commitment to mental health services.

Meanwhile, the prime minister has been dragged back into debate over the impact of climate change on drought.

"We live in a country where farmers have built this country".

"It has been extremely heartening to see Australians rally around our farmers and rural communities during these tough times", he said. "But we have had to remove them all and bring them closer to the homestead so we can more easily feed them".

He described the situation of some farmers as "shocking", "diabolical" and "tragic".

Today's $190 million announcement takes the federal government's drought response to $576 million, with hundreds of millions of dollars more to be announced in the next few weeks.

When Malcolm Turnbull had a private meeting with the six-member Great Barrier Reef Foundation, the government handed over a donation of nearly half a billion dollars without the body so much as asking for it and no tenders called.