Thursday, 25 March 2021
Questions without Notice
Emergency Response Fund
My question is to the Prime Minister. Can the Prime Minister confirm that not a single dollar of the government's $4 billion Emergency Response Fund has been spent? Can he confirm that this is a fund that has an annual allocation for both recovery and mitigation, and the figures there are zero and zero that have been spent? When Australians have suffered record fires and floods, how is it possible that not a dollar has been spent from this fund?
The Leader of the Opposition once again comes to this dispatch box and seeks to misrepresent, at a time like this, the important support that has been provided by this government to people in great need. There has been no hesitation from this government to ensure that we're providing the support that is necessary. The Leader of the Opposition would well know because time and again, whether in this chamber or elsewhere, we have made it very clear that the funds he refers to are drawn upon once all other funds, which have been significant—$2 billion alone for bushfires has been rolling out, the funds that have been provided to devastated flood victims, the funds that have been provided for COVID assistance. I'll ask the minister to add further, but the real question is: What are this Leader of the Opposition's boundaries? On what issue will he not politicise? Even in the midst of floodwaters which have still not yet receded there is nothing this Leader of the Opposition will not play political games with.
The Leader of the Opposition is rising on a point of order, but the Prime Minister had concluded his section of the answer to allow the minister for emergency management to speak. Just before that—a happy interlude at the start of question time: at great length and on a number of occasions yesterday I warned members what would happen with interjections. I ask members to recall that. I'm not going to repeat at all. It wastes the time of members wanting to participate properly in question time. I'll just succinctly remind members that standing order 94(a) does not require a warning, and I don't really have any plans to issue any warnings today. If you interject, you'll be ejected.
The legislation that was passed through this House and that had bipartisan support quite clearly said in it that the funds within the $200 million dividend that was paid out over a year were part of two components, including $150 million that could be used for a catastrophic event. Well, for the catastrophic event that we encountered during the last black summer, we put $2 billion out. In fact, $150 million was spent in the electorates of some of those opposite alone. The $50 million for mitigation is now being assessed, after we went out for application. It will be rolled out before 30 June. This was the first year in which the fund was to roll out and the dividend was to be paid.
Disappointingly, either those opposite didn't read the legislation before they voted for it or they are playing politics. Please: this is about people, not politics. This is about making sure that the money that we put out is about recovery at a local level, not at a Canberra level. This is about those people who went through the disasters, to make sure that it was about locally led recovery. So please, if you come into this House—you want to be elected to this House, you want to vote on legislation—it is imperative: either you read it properly and understand what you are voting on, or please leave the politics at the door.