Wednesday, 28 October 2020
Questions without Notice
Australian Natural Disasters
I thank the member for Cowper for his question. I also thank him and I thank every member in this chamber in the way that they supported their communities through what was a very trying time for our nation. Tragically 33 people lost their lives. Ten of those were emergency service personnel. It's fitting that on national emergency service remembrance day the royal commission into natural disasters in Australia handed the report to the Governor-General this morning. The letters patent were signed by every state and territory and the Commonwealth in agreement around what would be looked at in that commission of inquiry.
It is now appropriate—the Prime Minister has written to every state—that we simultaneously release that report on Friday, so there's full transparency around recovery and around preparedness into the future. That recovery, in fact, started the very next day after fires went through a lot of those communities. Over $250 million was put out in immediate support payments to people impacted by these bushfires—$1,000 per adult, $400 per child. There have been 4,882 properties that have been cleaned up, in partnership with state and federal governments—helping that recovery.
There was a $2 billion fund created to help the long-term recovery as well. To date $1.2 billion of that has been spent. There are 29 programs covering the environment, mental health, child care. But the signature piece of that is the local economic recovery plans. This was about local recovery, not Canberra recovery. We want to empower the communities to tell us how they build back better? To engage and empower communities to tell us how we do that $448 million has been set aside. What is the infrastructure that they need to recover, not only economically, but socially?
We've also looked to the future. We've said we need to greater understand these events. There is $88 million into research and development—not only understanding the climate, but also equipping our firefighters with the tools to be able to do their jobs safely. It's also been around technology—telecommunications. There is $37 million in building resilience in the infrastructure that will keep us safe and keep our emergency service people safe during fires as well. We've worked with the states in terms of preparedness, trying to harmonise those recovery payments so there's consistency from one state to the next, but also, more importantly, making sure that our warning systems are harmonised, that those symbols that people rely on are harmonised. There's a single source of truth to keep them safe——practical measures. We thank the royal commission and the commissioners for their diligent work in understanding that this is a serious issue for Australia's future and preparedness. Our legacy to those who've lost their lives, particularly the emergency service personnel, is to learn from the past, but more importantly, to prepare better for the future.