House debates

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Questions without Notice

Regional Australia

2:13 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Leader of the Nationals) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for Cowper for standing shoulder to shoulder with the victims of the fires in his area. He and I were at Willawarrin the other day with Ian Sheridan. Ian had been out fighting the fires with the Willawarrin Bushfire Brigade whilst his own house, not far away, was burning to the ground. Every possession in that house was lost, his car was destroyed, and potentially his hopes for the future were destroyed in that blaze. But he was still positive, he was still looking to the future and he was still thinking about others in his area. Pat and I stood there with him and he was absolutely committed to helping other people.

Australia should pay tribute to those people. I appreciate that four people have lost their lives in these dreadful fires. That's why on Sunday the federal government again helped with a $48.25 million package. It won't be enough. We will be there helping them. It certainly is going to help them in the here and now, but in the future we will again look at what we can do to help these communities through what is potentially going to be an awful summer. When we think of the drought, we think of the $709 million package that we put on the table. Again, we will continue to monitor the situation and continue to address the drought as we have the whole way through, to make sure we stand shoulder to shoulder with not just farmers but also those regional small businesses which really need assistance. That's why that package that we announced recently contained measures so that, through the Regional Investment Corporation, small businesses can borrow money interest free for two years—like the farmers. There were 128 councils and, under the drought communities support program, we're helping them with another million dollars—122 of them have already received a million dollars through that program. Of course, the Building Better Regions Fund, which is open now and closes on 19 December, is a drought round that is specific for not just the 128 local government areas but other council areas which are affected by drought. We welcome those submissions. We know from past experience when we had that $200 million fund that it's always oversubscribed. There's always over a billion dollars' worth of applications and submissions. We're there to help those drought communities this time, and certainly every time.

I know how important this is for the member for Cowper. I know how important this is for everybody who represents rural and regional Australia, and that includes people on both sides of the parliament. We will be there. We can see beyond the chamber doors. I've been really disappointed with the antics this week. I've been really disappointed with the way that Labor has acted when we could have been at a bipartisan level, but, no. We see that our regions are hurting and we're responding on their behalf. (Time expired)

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