The West

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has visited a drought-hit property near Bourke at the start of a two-day listening tour of western NSW and Queensland.

Mr Abbott inspected some cattle on Phil and Di Ridge's 40,000-hectare family farm, Jandra.

The prime minister declined a seat in a luxury four-wheel drive to arrive at a cattle watering station in a rusty Holden ute.

"It's very important to see and feel how you guys live," Mr Abbott said.

Mr Ridge said the key problems that needed to be addressed were rural debt, weed and pest animal control and education allowances.

"We need money to fight a drought," he said.

"We just can't get ahead." The farm received only 120 millimetres of rain in 2013 and none this year.

A typical year brings 350mm of rain.

Ironically, just as the prime minister and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce left the cattle for a woolshed it started to rain.

Mr Abbott later told a gathering at the property's woolshed that the government would respond to the drought in a way that was "fair and responsible".

"There will be better income support," he said.

"There will be better access to the sort of loan support that people need.

"And there will be plenty of emphasis on social support."

He said rural industry should not be "some sort of museum piece".

"We want it to be a dynamic part of the economy."

He said the assistance package would be announced in coming day".

Bourke mayor Andrew Lewis said he expected the plan to be unveiled on Monday.

He said the rain falling now on the Bourke area would be useful but not drought breaking.

"This is fantastic and I thank the PM for bringing the rain."


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