Drought Minister David Littleproud has poured cold water on calls from farmers and Labor to have regions cracking under dry conditions declared natural disaster zones.
Mr Littleproud, who also holds the emergency management portfolio, said drought had its own classification and is different to cyclones and floods.
"Drought creeps up and it destroys the landscape in a slow way, people de-stock and it is effectively a different mechanism," he told reporters in drought-hit central west NSW on Wednesday.
He said the government's drought programs were different to other natural disasters, which required immediate rebuilding of infrastructure.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese backed farmers calls to have some drought-stricken regions declared natural disaster zones during a visit to bone-dry Stanthorpe in southeast Queensland the same day.
"Quite clearly this community is suffering from natural disaster," he told reporters.
"On top of the drought, for them to suffer from that devastating fire, has had a real impact on the community."
The Labor leader called on the coalition to do more to develop an overarching drought strategy.
Mr Littleproud, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and local MP Barnaby Joyce on Wednesday met with businesses feeling the pinch as the flow-on impacts of drought bite in regional economies.
"If people can take a trip to these areas, spend money in those communities and back those small businesses then that will be important to them staying on their feet," Mr Frydenberg said.
Mr Albanese also spoke of businesses struggling, using the example of a local motel with vacancies ahead of the October long weekend.
Meanwhile, Labor frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon wants an inquiry into the coalition's full suite of drought assistance programs.
He wants the auditor to examine "inexplicable" claims the coalition is spending $7 billion on drought initiatives, and to measure the value and effectiveness of each program.
Mr Littleproud hit back at the opposition's claims the massive headline figure was dishonest.
"We have nothing to hide. We are happy to put numbers out," he said.
Of the overall pool, the Future Drought Fund, a drought-proofing kitty doling out $100 million a year from 2020, will make up $5 billion by 2028/29
Regional Investment Corporation loans total $1 billion, but rely on applications to be approved.
Money available for the Farm Household Allowance, a welfare payment for drought-hit farmers, totals $183 million.
A range of other spending commitments make up the balance.
The government argues many of the programs in the overall figure are demand-driven, requiring people to take them up, while others are about preparing for future droughts.
Australian Associated Press