House debates

Monday, 30 November 2020

Questions without Notice

Australian Bushfires

2:17 pm

Photo of Susan TemplemanSusan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. With reference to last summer's bushfires, the dozens of fires burning across the country right now and the heatwave set to worsen this week, can the minister confirm that over the past year not one cent of the $400 million available for bushfire resilience and recovery in the $4 billion Emergency Response Fund has been spent? The Prime Minister says he doesn't hold a hose, but he does hold the taxpayers' chequebook. Why hasn't he delivered the funding he announced?

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for her question and acknowledge the fact that she herself has been personally touched by bushfires. The fund that had bipartisan support through this parliament in fact set in place $200 million that was available. Of that, $150 million is available to rebuild after catastrophic events only, as that legislation that those opposite voted for quite clearly points out, once all other programs and funds have been exhausted. Subsequently we put in place a $2 billion fund. In fact, of those electorates opposite, over $159 million has gone into Eden-Monaro alone—one electorate. So the scale of this disaster was of a magnitude that that fund was superseded by the $2 billion we put in place to make sure that those people impacted by that disaster were supported.

There is an additional $50 million set aside for resilience programs. We have taken advice from the director-general, who is providing me and the government with those programs. That has taken place after consultation with communities not just in the bushfire region but right across the country, because this is for all natural disasters. It's also important for those opposite, particularly the member who asked the question, to understand quite explicitly the trauma which these people went through, and that not everyone had recovered emotionally to the point where they were prepared to have input. This is about people, not politics. Whatever needs to be spent will be spent.

We have made sure that, of that $2 billion, $1.2 billion has already gone out. In addition, there was over $250 million in immediate support to those that were impacted. This is about making sure that we exhaust all the funds. We will have no hesitation in spending the last $50 million once we get the Director-General Emergency Management Australia providing us with that advice. That is the responsible thing to do. That is, in fact, the legislation that those opposite voted for. So either you're asleep at the wheel and you didn't read it or you are, unfortunately, playing politics with the trauma and the 33 lives that were lost in Black Summer. This place should be above that. That bill was about bipartisanship and a way forward. Unfortunately, if you wish to politicise that, that is more a reflection on you than it is on us.