ABC South East - Insurance, aerial firefighting, Brereton Report

ABC South East - Insurance, aerial firefighting, Brereton Report Main Image

24 November 2020

RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC South East NSW, Breakfast
Tuesday, 24 November 2020


SIMON LAUDER, PRESENTER: It's a trend in property insurance which the federal member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain says is undermining the very investment regional areas need to create jobs and prosperity following the challenges of 2020. And Kristy McBain joins us this morning. Good morning.


LAUDER: What have you been hearing from locals about the insurance challenge ahead?

MCBAIN: Look, we've been approached by businesses, big and small about insurers now knocking back a reinsurance for bushfire issues. And I believe that has been the case in residential areas as well. And you know, businesses can't insure their assets for bushfire risk, then it's unlikely they're going to continue to invest and upgrade their assets. So a worrying sign. And as I said, I've heard that from businesses both big and small. And certainly that obviously needs to be worked on.

LAUDER: We've heard caravan parks in particular are a problem. Are there other types of businesses that you've heard of facing this problem?

MCBAIN: As I understand some of our Alpine resorts are having issues in that regard. Some of our businesses that run from rural properties are having the same issues. So as I said, a worrying sign. What we want to see at the moment is investment in those businesses, to help them create jobs.

LAUDER: What are you doing about it? And what do you want the federal government to do?

MCBAIN: So raising it in parliament was one step and it was picked up by media, both local and national, which was fantastic and the conversation has to start that, you know, in these areas, there are some issues following on from the black summer fires, you know, I've had business owners rise the the prospect of a GIO - a government insurance agency coming back. And I don't know that that's the answer. But the conversation has to start because we have to make sure that businesses can invest in upgrading and bringing in new assets.

LAUDER: Now, further bushfire questions, and the Royal Commission recommending that Australia get its a sovereign aerial firefighting fleet, the government was quick to point out it thinks that the state agencies better place to decide what our aerial firefighting fleet needs to be, in other words, the status quo. Greg in Pambula, in particular, wanted us to ask you about that. Are you satisfied with the government's response to that Royal Commission recommendation?

MCBAIN: No, it wasn't for the very reason that, you know, the summer that we all just went through, there w ere multiple areas where there was no ability to have an aerial firefighting fleet. Because of the lack of capacity across Australia. What we saw was, obviously fires in multiple jurisdictions in different states and territories.

You know, there are obviously leased aircaft that the private sector provides within Australia, and there are at leased aircraft that we get from overseas as well. And I think we're all seeing, you know, with the wildfires in California already this year, the bushfire seasons are getting longer.

And I think it's just prudent to make sure that we have that ability - to call on that national fleet when it's required. So there is going to have to be work with the states. But I think it's a missed opportunity to make sure that we had an overarching supply, when we know that there will be fires in multiple states and territories.

LAUDER: We're going to be coming up against anniversaries of these devastating fires around the South East very soon. What needs to happen, do you think to make sure that people have the opportunity to get together and mark the occasion if that's what they want to do?

MCBAIN: Yeah, look, I think, as we roll closer into Christmas, and the first anniversary for many of those people along the coast, I think it's incumbent upon communities to commemorate that one year anniversary in a way that they wish to and, you know, I don't think that that's up to council or state governments or federal government to be holding events. I think that's up to community members, whether they want to or not, is an issue for them. And it's been a pretty hard time for a lot of people. And it might be a day that people actually would prefer, not to gather. So now we have to respect the wishes of how people want to do that within their community.

LAUDER: Alright, so some community led events, perhaps. A question from Brian, Brian is questioning whether we've learned from previous experience and in his view, says Tathra is in the same boat in terms of lack of clearance as before the fire, particularly when it comes to communications towers. And this is talking about vegetation clearance around communications towers, particularly in Tathra. Are you satisfied that systems won't fail the way they did last year?

MCBAIN: Yeah, look, we've spoken a lot about resilience and mitigation measures. And it was one of the things that I spoke about during the byelection was making sure that our communication system was more resilient, making sure that our community buildings are more resilient. I've been pleased that Telstra has taken on board a number of the suggestions that Bega Valley Shire Council made in terms of having more available cells on wheels.

They've also got a new apparatus that is called a satellite cow on wheels. As I understand it, they are doing additional clearing around their communication sites, if you believe that's not the case, please get in touch with our office so that we can follow that up. But, you know, I think we are all at a heightened level of awareness. We're talking about the more because of their experience, and I think we have to continue to do that, because there has to be lessons learnt from what we've all been through.

LAUDER: The shocking Brereton Report into the SAS released on Friday over the alleged murder of 39 civilians and prisoners in Afghanistan and the cruel treatment of a couple of others. What's your response to that? What needs to happen now?

MCBAIN: Obviously, this report set out a series of allegations against Defence Force personnel. And you know, there has to be a full and proper investigation to see whether there will be any charges laid. And I think it's incumbent upon us to make sure that investigation is done.

It's obviously been a hard time for many people who are previous defence force members and current serving members, as well as the community to have heard about these allegations. But I think that there obviously needs to be a full investigation to see where the charges will now be laid. And then we can discuss what we need to do going forward as a defence force to make sure that these things don't happen again.

LAUDER: And finally, you've told me before that you might struggle to perform your dual roles of federal MP and local councillor I how are you going with that? Are you any closer to a decision on whether you'll need to resign your role with Bega Valley Shire Council?

MCBAIN: Yeah, it's obviously very difficult. And I've been on the road pretty frequently between the different parts of this electorate. I have two council meetings left for the year and then I think I'm gonna have to sit down and have a really good think about whether I can continue the role.

LAUDER: Thank you so much for your time again this

MCBAIN: Thanks very much Simon.