House debates

Thursday, 2 December 2021

Questions without Notice

Australian Natural Disasters

2:55 pm

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia. Will the minister update the House on the support made available by the Morrison-Joyce government to assist Australians affected by natural disasters throughout the year?

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

I thank the member for Parkes for his question. He knows full well that, particularly over the last couple of weeks, his electorate of Parkes and also the electorate of Riverina have faced up to a flooding event. In fact, that has extended into my own electorate, where we've had the evacuation of Inglewood and Yelarbon. I thank the local government for the key role that they've played not just during this flooding event but through all the natural disasters that we've faced up to over the last 12 months, whether it be floods, fire, the drought or even cyclones. It is in that coordinated approach that we work with state and local governments to ensure our response is immediate, timely and effective. They are long-lasting and longstanding arrangements that we continue to enhance at every chance.

At first, it is about the immediacy of support, taking away that financial burden. We partner with the states in making sure we give those people some dignity and respect through our disaster recovery allowance. We pay for that fifty-fifty. In some states it's $900, in some it's over $1,600, and in others it's the full reimbursement of out-of-pocket costs. The federal government complements and supplements that with our disaster recovery payment: $1,000 per adult and $400 per child. That makes a real difference in taking away the burden and mental strain of the immediacy and urgency of what they are facing up to.

Then we work with the states further in making sure that we share the burden in rebuilding the public infrastructure, making sure that we also use this thing called common sense and that, where we can, we don't just rebuild it to the standard but build it to a higher standard to make it more resilient for future disasters. That's what we should continue to strive for, and I thank the states for working collaboratively with us on that.

We also make sure that we are tailoring our response with states not just in the short-term but with long term support, including through drought, whether it be through Regional Investment Corporation loans, with an interest-free and repayment-free period; through restocking and replanting grants; or through small business grants or small business loans. We are making sure it's tailored to the local community. It's a local solution, not a Canberra solution. It's important we understand that the Australian taxpayer has made a significant investment: $11 billion towards drought recovery, over $2 billion in response to the Black Summer event and $3 billion to the floods in North-West Queensland alone. That continues, and that has bipartisan support in making sure we help Australians in their hour of need.

One of the most significant investments out of all those programs that we make is in our people, with nearly $130 million in mental health support, helping the healing of those who have faced up to the tragedy of loss in some cases. Above all, the last line of defence is the emergency service personnel. Sadly, we have seen some who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and their community. So, to all those emergency service personnel who do their bit for their country and community, at the end of the year we say thank you.