Wow, I need some earplugs! This country needs a leader, one that actually wants to lead, not someone who simply wants the title. The Prime Minister has been given countless opportunities to lead this country when we desperately needed it, but instead of stepping up he steps back time and again, and we have seen him pass the buck to someone else. In 2019 experts, including former fire chiefs, warned the Prime Minister of the serious risk of the impending fire season. They urged him to invest in aerial firefighting capacity. He ignored these warnings, left the country and went on holidays. Yes, I am again talking about bushfires. In fact, the last time I spoke in parliament about the ongoing and compounding effects of the Black Summer bushfires followed by the pandemic, the response I had from one government minister was, 'With all due respect, the bushfires were 18 months ago.'
I am well aware of how much time has passed since the bushfires, because I won't forget that summer. I'll never forget standing in front of a room of terrified community members and telling them that, if they weren't prepared to defend their homes and their lives, they needed to leave. I'll never forget the days, the weeks and the months that followed those terrifying events and the ongoing trauma that so many people are still grappling with, and I don't need this government to tell me how much time has passed. The reason I stand up in here time and again is that, despite how much time has passed, people in my community are still desperate. They are in desperate need of support, and in truth I don't want to be the bushfire reminder. I am tired of having to stand in here to beg and plead with the government to take action and to continue to take action to prioritise the recovery of bushfire communities. Scott Morrison failed these communities when he was in Hawaii. He failed these communities when he said, 'I don't hold a hose.' And he continued to fail these communities by sitting on money that was earning interest, instead of taking action.
Two years ago this government set up the $4 billion disaster fund. Two years later and more than 18 months since the Black Summer bushfires the Morrison-Joyce government has only released $50 million from this fund. During that time that fund has earned the government over $700 million in interest. The fund has earned 14 times as much in interest than it has actually been spent. The fund was designed to pay out $200 million each year to councils, with $150 million set aside for recovery and $50 million for infrastructure projects to lessen the impact of disasters. But here we are once again approaching another disaster season with nothing built, no jobs created, no communities protected, because this government prioritises its bank balance or the possibility of an election slush fund over anything else. This is just another example of the Prime Minister's big promises with no delivery.
The bushfires, followed by the pandemic and along with floods in between, has meant that individuals, businesses and communities in my electorate are struggling now more than ever. Numerous border closures and lockdowns have hurt these communities more than this government seems to understand. Businesses in my area can't simply bounce back. The alpine region can't recoup their losses until the next winter rolls around. They've got more than six long months ahead of them, where they don't know how they are going to make ends meet to pay their bills.
This shouldn't have happened. This year's lockdowns and border closures were preventable. The problem was that the Prime Minister didn't prioritise the vaccine rollout. He said it wasn't a race. He treated it like anything but a race. He was too slow to order vaccines. We know other nations ordered theirs in July; the Prime Minister waited until November. He knocked back Pfizer. He didn't order enough vaccines, and he didn't order a variety of vaccines. As a result, more people have been exposed to COVID, businesses have suffered billions of dollars in economic loss and incredible pressure every day and Australians have experienced huge amounts of stress, trying to cope with working from home and homeschooling.
The stress from these lockdowns is more intense for people living in regional areas, because the lockdowns have brought to light the other failings of this government. For years this government hasn't invested enough in regional infrastructure. While the rest of the country was working and learning from home, people in my electorate were grappling with poor internet connectivity. This impacted not only countless businesses but also students. People on satellite internet can't buy additional data, because of legislation put in place by this government. New South Wales is opening up, which is fantastic, but the damage is done to regional communities. It's time to get rid of this government after a decade of inaction.