Monday, 15 June 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. Will the minister outline to the House how the Morrison government is giving regions stricken by drought and bushfires the support they need to recover, rebuild and prepare for their future?
I thank the member for Lyne for his question and also for his leadership not only during the fire event in the summer of this year but also during the drought. There has been the triple whammy in his electorate with COVID-19. Many electorates around the country have had that triple whammy. It's important to acknowledge that the programs the government has put out in direct payments and infrastructure under COVID-19 goes to those communities as well, but we've been very mindful and understanding that our response to fires and drought is not just about money in the pockets straightaway; it's about building the infrastructure around those communities to build them back better. That's been an important principle. We, as a government, made sure that the investment we've undertaken does that and achieves that.
With the $2 billion Bushfire Recovery Fund, we will have a billion of that spent by 30 June. We only anticipated $500 million of that would be out by 30 June, but such has been the speed by which we have been able to get that money out of government's pocket into those that need it. It's been through infrastructure programs. We've given it to councils to be able to be put into infrastructure. Also $240 million, separate to that, has gone into immediate support. We've continued to make sure that those programs are targeted, so much so that we've announced a further $450 million where local economies will decide exactly how that money should be spent to build back better. We're empowering them to empower their future through their decisions.
I'm proud to say that in the last couple of weeks we announced, under a drought round of the Building Better Regions Fund, $207 million that will go to local economies to build infrastructure that diversifies their economic base. That's not just about preserving the jobs but about creating new jobs in those local towns to make them more resilient for drought. That's on top of the more than $335 million we put out through the Drought Communities Program. A million dollars went to some councils. Some councils have got $3.5 million to build infrastructure projects to keep the economy going with small-scale infrastructure projects. There was $100 million recently announced for upgrades of regional airports, keeping the connectivity between regional Australia and metropolitan Australia going—we're investing in the infrastructure to do that. And $3.5 billion has gone into the dams. I am proud to say the Deputy Prime Minister will be in my electorate at Emu Swamp Dam before the end of the year, because, finally, the Queensland government has chipped in a measly $6 million of the $47 million required and we're going to have an excavator moving before the end of the year. It's a fantastic outcome.
A government member: Farmers put in more.
In fact, farmers put in more than the Queensland Labor government. They were brought kicking and screaming. Now the Future Drought Fund goes live with its first investment on 1 July. That's an investment in the future to put the infrastructure around regional and rural Australia to build them back better, because we know if we equip them with the tools of the future to face up to these disasters—if we invest in regional Australia—Australia is better for it.