RADIO INTERVIEW – ABC SOUTH EAST NSW
FRIDAY, 6 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: BUSHFIRE ROYAL COMMISSION, SBS – ABC TRANSMISSION
SOPHIE LONGDEN, PRESENTER: It is 18 minutes past seven here on ABC se It was just seven days ago when the federal government released the findings of the Royal Commission into Natural Disaster Arrangements. Since then ABC South East has been seeking responses to the 80 recommendations for many of the locals directly impacted and overwhelmingly most don't want to comment. Either they haven't read it or haven't engaged with it. And there is also a sense of scepticism about whether it will really make any difference. It's a sentiment that federal member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain is also picking up on and part of an opinion piece that has just been published. Kristy McBain is my guest on ABC South East this morning, Kristy. Hello,
KRISTY MCBAIN, MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Morning, Sophie.
LONGDEN: Now obviously it's a significant and important report. But in your opinion piece, I think you've summed it up very well. When you say - for a moment walk in the shoes of a bushfire survivor, imagine that the gates of hell have opened on you, your family and your home, nothing is left and you feel lucky to be alive. That's the headspace that many of us are still in.
MCBAIN: Yeah, that's right. I think, you know, there was probably almost a collective eye roll from some people when the Royal Commission was announced. There's been over 200 I think reviews or inquiries into natural disasters. And we know that many of the recommendations that have been put forward previously haven't been picked up and implemented yet. And I think that people, you know, when that was announced, well, we're more hopeful that you know, that money would flow into the those communities and be utilised by the people that had lost everything rather than go towards the Royal Commission. But we have one now there are 80 recommendations. And I think it's incumbent upon us to continue talking about it because the some of the some of our neighbours and their families of their friends. They're not in the headspace to take in what this Royal Commission currently says. And we need to keep it on the agenda because it's largely been lost in a US election, which I think for many people down here is a real slap in the face.
LONGDEN: And before we explore some of the key points that you would like to see us talking about as part of those recommendations, I think it's also important to flag another, you know, major issue that you raised in your opinion piece, which is there's obviously been plenty of other reports previously done. And you actually touch on the fact that your you know, former federal member colleague, Gary Narin, who was the the federal member for Eden-Monaro for a number of years, also was part of that creation of a bushfire report after the Canberra bushfires. Now, a lot of those recommendations that he made back then have been raised as part of this inquiry.
MCBAIN: Yeah, that's right. I mean, there are recommendations in there, which have been the subject of previous inquiries. And there are a lot that hasn't been implemented from the Canberra bushfires, we know, after Black Saturday, there are a lot of recommendations, and not all of those have been implemented. You know, this fire obviously was, you know, unprecedented. And with said that word a lot. And there are a lot of recommendations in there. But now's the time for action. And I think that's what people are calling for, you know, please don't let this report just gathered dust. And you know, we don't do anything about it. You know, there are some recommendations in there that I think people in the Bega Valley, and the Snowy Mountains would be really keen to see implemented things such as a communication system that, you know, doesn't just stop based on which state or territory you're in.
You know, for many of us, we were trying to understand multiple different Apps, trying to get her information from over the Victorian border from within New South Wales and from closer to the ACT. So look, you know, that communications really has to be a seamless communication system when we have got a natural disaster because it doesn't stop the boundaries, or lines on the map. So that would be one thing that I think everyone would be really keen to see especially here and the other thing that was talked about in the Bega Valley for some time now following on from the Tathra and district fires is a single agency. And that's what's being recommended here. You know, a recovery and resilience agency set up permanently within the federal government so that we can streamline that response to disaster but also to recovery. Most importantly.
LONGDEN: You did touch on though Kristy McBain that those 80 recommendations are needed, and they will need to be championed, that the community needs to not only make themselves aware of them, but then potentially really push them hard. And that's obviously difficult because a lot of people are exhausted, both emotionally and physically at the moment. And we're also hearing increase calls for, you know, more volunteers to help with just trying to get community events back on track, let alone championing bushfire recommendations.
MCBAIN: Yeah, that's right. I mean, people are exhausted. It's been pretty crazy year so far, you know, what people in Canberra largely don't understand is that the recovery process is so incredibly complex. And it's not just as simple as engaging a builder and rebuilding a home, there is so much that a person who's lost their home has to deal with including, you know, navigating the state planning system, speaking with councils, getting a BAL rating, in many cases having to do cultural heritage studies or Aboriginal heritage studies. You know, there is a lot of very complex things in the recovery process. And it's incumbent upon those of us that that can and should be serving our community to continue to champion this royal commission. Because you know, there is a lot that people that have lost homes, sheds and fences, a lot that they still have to deal with. And so it's incumbent upon us to do what we can to keep this current and in the media.
LONGDEN: And we'll certainly be continuing to explore these 80 recommendations here on ABC South East but I know that there is one issue that you're across Kristy McBain, that is one that we'll be talking about, on the programe this morning, we're going to be having a bit of a chat to the Bermagui community and part of the Nutleys Creek Road community group who have been really pushing to have a better access road created almost like a ring road around the community of Bermagui - thinking outside the square and saying look for future fires, we really need better access, preferably a tarred road is that the sort of outside the square thinking that we really need to start to champion?
MCBAIN: What I think is really important is that we start listening to the local communities that live in and around our region. You know, they're the people that are there daily, they're the ones who are back and forth to work to school, to sport. And they're the ones that are living within this emergency situation when it when they unfold. There has been some fabulous suggestions from a whole range of different communities about how best to make themselves resilient in the event of a future disaster. And it's these things that we made to listen to them pick up.
LONGDEN: And part of that, obviously, is the communications. You also touched on the border communication issues, but TV communications, media communications, also very important. And there's been a significant bit of progress made with the SBS coverage not only for the community of Bermagui, but also other communities in our region that were at risk in in losing SBS TV.
MCBAIN: Yeah, that's right. I mean, we are so heavily reliant during times of disaster on the media that we have, and sometimes in our regional communities, you know, we aren't really plush for choice in some circumstances. But, you know, SBS dropped out just without warning in Bermagui over a month ago, and as I found out, there were five other, transmitted stations that potentially were on the chopping block, including Batlow, Bungendore, Dalmeny, Merimbula, and Tumbarumba. And what had happened was, this company had been maintaining the signal for SBS and ABC for free for over 10 years and has been trying to negotiate with the government over a maintenance contract. And nothing was forthcoming.
So, you know, there'd been some work I'd done raising it with the communications minister, I'd spoken about it in Parliament, I'd spoken with the chair of the RBA Holdings Limited board which maintain the towers and now there's been a resolution achieved, and that SBS signal is back in Bermagui. But that had to come out of the SBS and ABC's own budget, which you know, I hate to think that you know, short term fix like that results in other TV services, or jobs being cut from our region. So I want to say a long term sustainable solution to make sure that we don't lose those services within our regional communities.
LONGDEN: and Kristy McBain, we might also put an issue on notice with you and maybe chat to you about this in coming days or next week. There's obviously some community concern out there at the moment after the allocation of some bushfire local economic recovery grants funding a lot of people now looking at the detail of those funds. And that's what we're doing here at ABC radio, but perhaps so we can put that to you as on notice, and maybe have a chat to you about that the next week.
MCBAIN: Yeah, that sounds great Sophie, I know that there has been people that have applied for the funds that haven't received them and are unsure about how it was allocated or why. But yeah, really keen to have a further look into that and see how we can assist some of those other businesses to make sure that they get funding. For example, we had the owners of Selwyn Snowfield in the office a couple of days ago and they've not been eligible for any industry funding and I think we're all well aware of their total loss and what it means to the surrounding region to have that more affordable snow play area available. So look, I know that there are there are several businesses, several individuals that we're hopeful to receive funding in this round.
LONGDEN: Kristy McBain Thank you. We'll talk again soon.