Tuesday, 16 June 2020
Questions without Notice
New South Wales: Bushfires
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Last month, the Prime Minister promised that all bushfire affected properties in New South Wales would be cleared of debris by the end of June. Will Mr Morrison keep his promise?
As I'm sure Senator Watt would know, it is actually the New South Wales state government that is doing the job on the ground, supported by the federal government, which is providing 50 per cent of the funding to pay for the cost of the clean-up. I am happy to inform Senator Watt that, as of 11 May, I believe that about 2½ thousand out of 3,700 houses have had debris cleared. About 130 crew across New South Wales are working as we speak, with about 300 houses being cleared of debris a week. State authorities and relevant authorities in New South Wales will continue to work as fast as they can. My advice is that most debris will be cleared by the end of June and all is expected to be completed by 31 July. In all of the circumstances, including the impact of COVID-19, I would have thought that the Labor Party would understand that we are dealing with a particular circumstance that is more challenging than we envisaged back in January.
Government figures show that in Snowy Monaro, not one out of 119 bushfire-affected properties had been cleared of debris. In Queanbeyan-Palerang, one in 13 bushfire-affected properties has been cleared of debris. In New South Wales, fewer than one in three bushfire-affected properties have been cleared of debris. Why has Mr Morrison failed to live up to his promise to clear New South Wales of bushfire debris by 30 June?
Here we see what it's all about. Our government continue to do what we can to support New South Wales in working as fast as possible in providing support to bushfire-affected communities. In relation to cleaning of debris across bushfire-affected areas and, in particular, in the electorates that Senator Watt has mentioned, I'm advised that by 20 June about 208 properties are expected to be cleared—188 now. In Snowy Monaro, 31 will be cleared by 20 June—11 today. In Queanbeyan-Palerang, 64 will be cleared by 20 June—48 today. In the Bega Valley, 431 will be cleared by 20 June—375 as of today. In Eurobodalla, 600 will be cleared by 20 June—570 by today.
Why, when the promised clearing of bushfire debris hasn't happened, small businesses are struggling and bushfire survivors are still living in caravans, is the Prime Minister spending nearly $300,000 on market research on bushfires, instead of providing survivors with the immediate support he has promised?
I completely reject the premise of the question. About $1.4 billion worth of funding out of $2 billion is already hitting the ground in communities, as we speak, supporting individuals and that is on top of a whole series of funding already available through existing disaster recovery measures.
The Prime Minister works tirelessly every single day to ensure that communities across Eden-Monaro and all around Australia receive the support that they deserve and that they need through this difficult period. Certainly, the communities in Eden-Monaro have been hit hard with bushfires and are also feeling the impact of the coronavirus crisis. They know in the Liberal-National Morrison-McCormack government they are getting the best support that we can possibly deploy.