Wednesday, 4 March 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. On 6 January the Prime Minister promised $2 billion of immediate support for bushfire affected communities. This week he admitted his rollout has failed and he needs to 're-phase' and revise his efforts. We also learnt this week that only 10 per cent of his promised funds have been spent. Why has the Prime Minister failed to deliver his promise to my bushfire affected community?
I thank the member for her question and her ongoing efforts in her electorate in relation to the bushfires, as I do acknowledge the efforts of all members across this chamber for the support they've provided in those communities so terribly affected by the bushfires. But I have to correct the member on some of the matters that she's raised in her question and the misrepresentations made in her question. Of the $2 billion that were committed as part of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency and the fund that was established for that—there was $2 billion—and the phasing of that expenditure was $500 million in this financial year. I can confirm, as was confirmed at estimates, that some $205 million of that $500 million in this financial year, which was phased to be spent this year, has already been spent. We're in the first week of March. We committed these funds two months ago and we've spent $200 million already in the last two months. $500 million is the allocation for this six months to 30 June. I can go through them: $21 million in education support; $7 million for volunteer payments for rural firefighters; financial counselling support of $5½ million; emergency relief funding of $25.6 million, a mental health package of $10.4 million; a primary industries grants program that has already rolled out $43.5 million. $2.9 million has been provided under small business disaster recovery grants. This is the program where we need to rephase the program and re-engineer it based on the feedback we've had on the ground. In tourism domestic marketing we have already been able to provide, together with local area grants, $62½ million; and for wildlife and habitat recovery some $26.6 million.
When we go specifically to the primary producer grants in New South Wales, I can confirm that there has been $39.2 million provided to 672 applicants for grants under the primary producer program. In the small business grants, as those opposite know and as was the case whether it was Cyclone Yasi or the North Queensland floods or any of these other disasters, including bushfire disasters, in order to be eligible for small business grants there needed to be direct damage caused by that physical activity such as that fire event. That is the same rule that is applied on both sides of the House when these grants have been considered. The nature of these fire events has produced a different effect in these communities. That is the feedback we've got on the ground. The minister for emergency management, myself and former AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin, working together with people like the member for Bega, Andrew Constance, have been working on a revision to that program. I look forward to making announcements addressing those issues that have been raised. The government will continue to listen carefully and will continue to make changes to programs as necessary to deliver that support as needed.