PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
MONDAY, 22 November 2021
SUBJECTS: Bushfire funding.
KRISTY MCBAIN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR EDEN-MONARO: Good morning, it won't surprise you to know that once again, I'm here to complain about the government and their record on bushfire recovery. I actually wish that I wasn't. But I've spent the last few weeks traveling across my electorate, an electorate that had over a million hectares burnt in the Black Summer Bushfires, we lost well over 1000 homes, who lost tens of thousands of kilometres of fence line. Of the six LGAs I represent, only two of them were declared bushfire priority areas by this government in their latest grant fund round, Preparing Australia's Communities. None of those six LGAs were declared priority areas for floods. Since 2016, there's been 36 declared natural disasters across the Eden-Monaro. Storms, floods, and bushfire on multiple occasions across all six LGA s. We just don't get it. The government clearly doesn't get it. I mean, we have communities that are using words like ‘we feel abandoned’. We've got communities saying, ‘what don't they get about our situation?’ We have people still in caravans, people who don't have permanent accommodation. People who still don't have sewerage and water connected back to their properties. And we have a grant funding round, which, despite their best efforts, potentially, doesn't actually help those communities most impacted by the worst bushfire this country has ever seen. I wish I could say I was surprised. But I'm actually not. And that is the horrible part. These are communities that have gone through significant trauma, who will for years to come have to live with what happened during that Black Summer Bushfire. And to know that their government hasn't prioritised protecting them from the next natural disaster is a slap in the face to all of those communities who have come together after bushfires, who have come together after floods, to say these are the things that would make our community safer. Here are a list of projects that we would like you to do, so that we feel safe come the next natural disaster. This government has failed us. They failed us when the Prime Minister left this country and went to Hawaii. They failed us during the recovery process when it was all about taking pictures, and not about taking any action. And they continue to fail us in our recovery. Priority status would have given these communities 20 additional points in any grant application points that would have been well utilised by this community. But again, they weren't listed. I don't know whether it was done out of mistake. I don't know whether it was done out of spite. But I can tell you that these communities are hurting and this government is saying to them, we do not prioritise you. This grant fund, as the Member Macquarie said, opens in December and closes in early January. I mean, this fund could actually make a huge difference to communities that have been through significant trauma. But what this says to them is we're not actually serious about this funding, and we want to look like we're doing something. This Prime Minister needs to come and have a look at communities who are still going through trauma and actually have a genuine conversation with them. Because this fund could make all the difference for people believing that they are safe from the next natural disaster.
JOURNALIST: Kristy you know the effects of these natural disasters last mentally a lot longer than the physical scars. In that sense, giving people a home would make that mental anguish a little easier. How is it conceivable that two years on there are people who don't have homes, who are sleeping in caravans adding no doubt to their own mental anguish.
MCBAIN: I talk to many people across my communities. One man in particular, whose name is Graeme, and he tells me all the time. If the government was serious about mental health across the Black Summer Bushfire scar, then what they should be doing is prioritising money for people to rebuild as soon as possible. Getting into permanent accommodation actually assists people's mental health. We at the moment have a situation where we have multiple families in caravans. And caravans that have tarps across them that are leaking, not new caravans. We're talking about caravans that are 30 to 40 years old in some circumstances. I speak quite regularly with a couple named Jim and Enid. They are in their early 80s. Jim and Enid have been in a caravan since the Black Summer Bushfires one which they sleep in, one which they eat in and shower in. Both of those caravans leak and we have seen multiple heavy rain events and flooding since the Black Summer Bushfire. Only in the last couple of months have they actually had a shower and a toilet properly connected to sewerage on their property. I mean, we are a first world nation and we do not prioritise those people that are directly impacted and are going through a horrendous time. We have not as a country, done our very best to make sure that these people are looked after. It is high time that we actually turn our focus to rolling money out to those people directly impacted and assisting them through the planning process. And there is multiple layers of bureaucracy that stand in the way of people rebuilding. We actually have to make things streamlined and easier for people, and this government has not turned their attention to working with the state and has not turned their attention to working with local councils to make a meaningful difference to those lives that are directly impacted by bushfire.
MEDIA CONTACT: Melanie Leach 0423 759 288