Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Australia Post, Australian Bushfires
What a disgrace we saw in parliament last night and today, when the government refused to allow debate on the changes to Australia Post that will see letter services slashed to maybe twice a week and posties' jobs gone. The member for Chifley was allowed to say 15 words, which is six words less than the length of that sentence. Those opposite are too scared to have issues that affect people in a day-to-day way debated in this place. What we've largely been able to rely on in outer-Sydney areas like mine is that the letter to your accountant or the legal documents, the important work-related things that from time to time have to be posted, would get there usually by the next day. For goodness sake; Centrelink still posts letters to people with two-week deadlines on them. This move will hurt people and will add to the cost of small business, who rely on that universal service—such a fundamental thing, especially for areas where the NBN isn't rolled out, mobile is non-existent and ADSL can disappear. The lack of regular service will mean that people have to look at much more expensive options. At a time when we're looking to create jobs, surely a boom in parcel services should be leading to more jobs, not fewer posties.
We know on the ground what the economic impact of the summer bushfire crisis was in my electorate of Macquarie. Blue Mountains City Council found the bushfires decreased gross regional product for the region by an estimated $283 million, and that as many as 2,586 jobs were lost. Figures from the National Bushfire Recovery Agency show overall an estimated $65.4 million in damage was done to the Blue Mountains economy. The same estimates state the bushfire damage to the Hawkesbury economy was around $33 million. So the numbers show a massive impact, but what's not so clear is how the recovery for those areas is progressing.
Yesterday, the government claimed the data was transparent; yet the figures are as clear as mud. New information provided from a Senate question on notice has shown that, as at 20 May, of the 107 Blue Mountains properties registered for debris clean-up, just 41 had been cleared. That's just 38 per cent of properties cleared, nearly six months after the fires. And in the Hawkesbury, 86 properties were registered to be cleared and only 41 were completed. When you look at the breakdown for loans granted, on the recovery agency's website there's no data available—nothing; not for concessional loans, not for primary producer grants, and not for small business grants.
Bushfire victims feel they are being left behind by the Morrison government. And with the next fire season just three months away, it needs to be really transparent what progress there is for people to have any confidence that this government will keep its promise to do whatever it takes to help bushfire communities recover from those devastating fires.