Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Questions without Notice
Australian Natural Disasters
My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. Will the minister outline to the House how the McCormack-Morrison government has given Australians what that they need to manage through and recover from natural disasters such as droughts, floods and fires?
I thank the member for Lyne for his question. I acknowledge the fact that his electorate had that intersection of drought and fire. I thank him for his support. I acknowledge the work all members have done.
Let me say that, while there has quite rightly been considerable attention on COVID-19 and our response to COVID-19, this government has never lost focus on those lives that were impacted not just by a drought that's been going on for some eight years but also by the bushfires of this summer and the floods of north-western Queensland, where nearly 500,000 head were lost in a matter of 24 to 48 hours. That's why we will continue to make sure that those programs that we as a government have rolled out and continue to roll out make a difference.
With respect to drought, over $10 billion has been committed to supporting the farmers get through the drought and get back up, and to support agriculture being able to increase production from $60 billion to $65 billion. That was through $310 million in direct payments to let them put their bread and butter on their table every fortnight.
It was also with respect to the $4 billion that was set aside through the Regional Investment Corporation to allow farmers to refinance up to $2 million of their debt from banks into the Regional Investment Corporation with no interest and no repayments for two years, saving them up to $120,000 a year—taking it out of big banks' pockets and putting it back into farmers' pockets. It was also about the $5 billion Drought Future Fund, and the first dividend of $100 million will be paid out before the end of June. We will continue look for the next year as we stand here today. It was also the partnership we took with the Queensland government with respect to the north-western Queensland floods—I acknowledge them and the support they gave those people there in partnership with us. It was $100 million in direct support payments to those people that were impacted by those floods and over $300 million in terms of restocking and replanting grants to allow farmers to get a cash flow straightaway.
Then with the bushfires there has been over $2 billion committed. Before we started the $2 billion, there was $250 million directly put out in support payments to give dignity and respect to those victims. Now we continue to roll out the $1.2 billion with the last major tranche of that, with $450 million going towards local economic recovery plans, letting locals decide how they diversify their economic base and rebuild a more resilient community.
The biggest investment we've made across all those disasters is the nearly $130 million in mental health support. We are not just trying to rebuild communities; we are rebuilding lives. While we take up the royal commission's recommendation of a single national recovery agency, let me make it clear to all Australians that were impacted that our principles won't change. We will continue to support every Australian through their hour of need, no matter what.