Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. This week, the Prime Minister described his government's bushfire recovery work as 'sensational' and 'tremendous'. Troy Pauling of Yowrie, who is still living with his family in a caravan and shed, near the uncleared ruins of their burnt-down home, says, 'The kids cry. They don't want to be here. If we got this cleared we'd have the ball rolling. But it's just way too slow.' what does the Prime Minister have to say to Mr Pauling?
Clearly, the bushfire crisis was devastating for the impacted communities, and continues to be devastating. There's no question. But the Australian government, working with relevant state governments, is doing everything we can to provide appropriate levels of support. Over $271 million was paid directly to families and individuals in direct support. over $237 million was paid to more than 195,000 eligible individuals in disaster recovery payments and disaster recovery allowances, as at 13 May. Over $33 million in payments was made for over 3,000 impacted children. There are many other things that we have done. But nothing that I can say—and, you know, Senator Watt is not asking this question out of genuine, sincere concern. He's asking this question—
I withdraw. Let me make this point: no amount of politicking in this chamber will help those families that are continuing to be severely impacted by the effects of bushfires. We are doing everything we can. We are working as hard as we can, bearing in mind that many of the lead responsibilities for these matters are at the state level. But we are doing everything we can. We are providing financial support as fast as we can. We have set up the Bushfire Recovery Agency, we have put in place the Bushfire Recovery Fund, and we are providing supports, working together with the relevant state governments, as fast and as effectively as possible.
This week, the Prime Minister said the government's bushfire recovery work is being done 'methodically and steadily and Australians are seeing that in action'. What does the Prime Minister say to Mr Jim Neil of Cobargo, who is still living in a donated caravan that leaks sewerage on the dirt patch that used to be his home?
Well, I say the same as I said in the primary answer. Of course there are still continuing devastating impacts from the bushfire crisis. That is practically unavoidable. We are working our way through these things in a way that is methodical and we are going through it as fast as we can. We have provided significant levels of support and more support will be provided over the coming weeks and months.
Figures released by the government just this week showed that five months on from the height of the bushfires, less than $260 million of the Prime Minister's $2 billion Bushfire Recovery Fund has actually been spent. To quote a hand-painted sign in Bega: '$2 billion bushfire fund—where is it?' Why is the Prime Minister more concerned with marketing and spin than with actually helping bushfire victims?
Senator Watt is not going to help those communities through his political spin. We put in place a $2 billion fund, which came on top of all of the disaster recovery support provided into the community. We put in place a $2 billion fund, over two calendar years, for the bushfire recovery. There was the immediate disaster response, and, when I went through the numbers for expenditures on that, all I was told was, 'Why are you just giving us numbers?' Well, I say them again. There was $271 million to families and individuals, and over $237 million paid to 193,000 eligible individuals in disaster recovery payments and disaster recovery allowance. By the end of June, we will have spent about $1 billion out of the $2 billion fund. In the first six months of a two-year program, we will have spent about half.