Thursday, 18 February 2021
Questions without Notice
North Queensland: Disaster Resilience
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, Senator Ruston. Can the minister please update the Senate on how the Morrison government is strengthening the disaster resilience of North Queensland?
I thank Senator McDonald for her question. Clearly, as a Northern Queenslander, she understands the importance of disaster recovery in her home state. We all know that North Queensland cops more than its fair share of natural disasters. I'm sure everybody in this place remembers the absolutely devastating impact of the flood events in 2019, which left large areas of the state under water. There is no doubt that all governments—and that includes the federal government—have a role to play in ensuring Australia's preparedness for and response to natural disasters. That's why this government, the Morrison-McCormack government, is investing in resilience measures that will ensure that our regions, as well as our urban areas, are in a better position to respond to any future natural disasters. This includes the $260 million in joint funding with the states and territories to implement the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework.
This framework sets out what we need to do to reduce disaster risk, both now and into the future. The government has also committed $88 billion for a world-class disaster resilience and research centre. The centre will provide all tiers of government with advice regarding disaster mitigation and resilience building. The government has also committed $25.9 million to the National Aerial Firefighting Centre, a centre that will coordinate our fleet of aerial firefighting specialised equipment that's able to support our states and territories, a matter in which I'll acknowledge that Senator Griff has a very strong interest. The Morrison-McCormack government is absolutely committed to supporting Queenslanders, as it is across the rest of Australia, to prepare for what will be, unfortunately, the next disaster, because we know that disasters will continue to occur.
Clearly, the most important thing is that we continue, as a federal government, to collaborate with the states and territories so that we have a united response when it comes to disasters and disaster-recovery arrangements. Often these arrangements are going to depend on the individual circumstances of the particular disaster, because we know that the Commonwealth will be prepared and has often paid up to 75 per cent of the total cost of the disaster. Under these arrangements, states and territories have the ability to build back more resilient buildings, services and public assets to make sure that they're in a better position to withstand future disasters. A classic example of this, Senator McDonald, was after Tropical Cyclone Debbie, when we funded a $1.85 million upgrade for the seawall at Shute Harbour so that it is able to withstand the tidal impacts of future disasters.
The government is working with states and territories to protect Australian communities, and one such collaboration, which we're working with the Queensland government on, is the Queensland Household Resilience Program. This program assists eligible householders, particularly in coastal parts of Queensland, to make practical improvements to their properties so that they can withstand and reduce the impacts of cyclones on their properties. It also has the added advantage of having a downward impact on the price of insurance premiums. This $21.25 million program has helped consumers reduce their premiums, some of them up to over $300 a year. We've also worked to strengthen 1,750 houses in that region to make sure that they are better prepared to withstand the impacts of future disasters. So this Queensland Household Resilience Program addresses the very issues Senator McDonald is asking about.