Monday, 2 March 2020
Questions without Notice
Eden-Monaro Electorate: Australian Bushfires
My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, the president of the Merimbula Chamber of Commerce, Nigel Ayling, has said that this members have lost up to 60 per cent of their annual turnover. He said:
When it comes to government assistance, it’s a big fat zero with 100% of respondents saying they have received NO government assistance at all.
Prime Minister, my bushfire affected businesses want to know: why have you left them behind?
I note that in the New South Wales Small Business Grants there have been 674 applications. Of these 111 have been approved, totalling some $1.9 million. There are 491 still being processed by the New South Wales government. I'll ask the minister to further update the House/
I thank the member for his question. It's important to appreciate that there are clear lines of delineation about the delivery of these programs. Sixty per cent of the disaster recovery payments—$1,000 per child, $400 per child—were done within 30 minutes. The grant arrangements and the loan arrangements are administered by the states, after agreement with the states on how the loans, along with the grants, should be administered and the criteria they should be administered under. We continue to work with the states, who have the sole responsibility of administering those and making sure that that money gets out. With respect to the disaster recovery allowance in Bega Valley, 306 have been made that made. In Eurobodalla 130 have been made. For the agricultural sector in the seat of Eden-Monaro, there have been 6,425 claims in Bega Valley and over 14,600 in Eurobodalla.
We work with the states, who are the service level of government in this country. We have and always will be in agreement. We continue to work with them. Last week the New South Wales Deputy Premier wrote to me asking us to think about the criteria that are in place for some of these grants and loans. We are in a position of exploring those options because of the feedback we're getting as we listen on the ground, but we need the agreement of the states to administer that.
We're looking at the application forms. The other piece we have is that when the states administer, they create their own application form. In New South Wales it's different to Queensland or South Australia. We're working with them as quickly as we can to clear the red tape, to make sure that we get out of people's lives as quickly as we can and make it as effective as we can. There is a balance in this. This is Australian taxpayers' money. We need to make sure we get the money out in effective, responsible ways.
Opposition members interjecting—
You can yell and scream, but you need to be calm and methodical. You care about the lives impacted by this disaster and you do it in a calm, methodical way that protects the Australian taxpayer and gets real results. We have raised the fact that we have concerns about the administration of these loans and grants by the states, who have the responsibility for it. We're not walking away from them. We will work with them to make sure they streamline the process in administering them. That is their role and responsibility. The federal government will not turn it back on any state or territory. We will help them to do this better, because it needs to be done better. No-one is walking away from that. We will walk hand in hand with every level of government in making sure we support farmers, small business and particularly those Australians that have lost it all.