House debates

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Questions without Notice

Australian Bushfires

2:22 pm

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development. Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House how the Morrison government is building resilience to ensure regional Australia recovers and thrives after the devastating bushfires?

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

I thank the member for Hinkler for his question. Resilience is an important word, and no more important than after the summer we have had and the summer we're still enduring. The fire season is not over yet.

Our communities are resilient. They are the best, the strongest, the bravest communities. Regional Australia is made up of people who are so, so resilient and so, so courageous. In the face of these fires, they want to build back better. 'Build back better': that's the theme of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, headed by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin. Those communities do want to build back better. They know how much this fire season has had an effect on them. They know the toll. But, as I said yesterday as we were honouring our bushfire victims and our bushfire affected communities, regional Australia ain't broke. Regional Australia has optimism. Regional Australia has a bright future. It will build back better after these fires. It will build back better after this drought.

We'll do it by building more dams, as the Prime Minister has just said. We will do it by helping businesses such as Greg Mouat's apple orchard in Batlow. I know the member for Eden-Monaro would probably know Greg Mouat. His family has been in business since 1926. He wants his son Richard to continue the family tradition of growing the best apples that he can. And of course there is Barney Hyams and Ian Cathels—they're great applegrowers. When an apple orchard burns it takes years to replant and years to get the full recovery from those fire effects. But build back better they will in Batlow, and in Tumbarumba and in Tumut, where their pine plantations have been so devastated.

This is indeed devastating for the Visy mill. The GDP, the local shire gross domestic product, for Snowy Valleys is underpinned 70 per cent by pine plantations. I know how much of an effect this is going to have on Hyne and Visy, but they will bounce back because they are resilient.

Mr Burns interjecting

All the communities I visited, and I went to Queensland—

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The Deputy Prime Minister will pause. The member for Macnamara can end his conversation and leave the chamber under 94(a).

The member for Macnamara then left the chamber.

Mr Rob Mitchell interjecting

I'm just going to say, particularly to the Second Deputy Speaker, that I'm not going to have people bellowing across the chamber when I'm trying to hear an answer. The Deputy Prime Minister has the call.

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

I visited Queensland; I visited New South Wales, down the South Coast; I visited in Victoria. I talked to fire authorities there, CFA firefighters who had saved the town of Walwa by a change of wind direction. They were looking forward to helping their community, helping Jingellic, helping all of those communities to build back better. I'm glad that in Oberne, which is in the Wagga Wagga local government area, we've provided that category C assistance so that they too, even though the local government area isn't devastated by fires, can get the help they need. (Time expired)