RADIO INTERVIEW – Radio 2CC, Canberra Live with Leon Delaney
Tuesday, 11 May 2021
SUBJECT: Senate Enquiry into the 2019-20 Bushfires, Araluen Road and Michelago Master Plan
LEON DELANEY - There have been calls for further support for bushfire affected communities, as the federal government apparently is not prepared to support three quarters of the recommendations made by the Senate inquiry into the Black Summer Bushfires. Now, this comes as a study has revealed that climate change is considered to be the primary cause of the 2019-2020 Black Summer Disaster, rather than other alternative causes that have been suggested by some, for example, forest mismanagement, excessive fuel loads, and things of that nature. Joining me now the Federal Member for Eden- Monaro Kristy McBain Good afternoon.
KRISTY MCBAIN - Good afternoon, Leon, how are you?
LEON DELANEY - Very well, thanks. Thanks for joining us today. Obviously, you're still living with the aftermath of those terrible bushfires even all these months later, what more needs to be done for communities in your electorate?
KRISTY MCBAIN - Look, I'm hearing day in and day out of people that have significant insurance issues, still some that are being told that they will not be insured any longer. Some that are saying that they can't get affordable insurance, you know, in the quotes of tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars for insurance and this is affecting local businesses and individuals right across the electorate. I mean, it is very hard for people to get back on their feet, if they have no guarantee of their assets being protected. It's one of the issues that the Senate inquiry raised, that there actually needs to be a really good look into the insurance industry to see how we can cope with these ongoing natural disasters, and a recommendation that's been rejected by the government.
LEON DELANEY - So three quarters of the recommendations not supported by the government, why have an inquiry of any kind if you're not going to listen to the recommendations?
KRISTY MCBAIN - I don't know either Leon, It strikes me as bizarre that, that you have an inquiry, because a bipartisan approach has voted that we should have an inquiry, a set of recommendations as brought forward and that the government comes back and says, Oh, yeah, we'll accept these ones. But the rest of them ah well, you know, we'll get to it at some point, perhaps maybe.
LEON DELANEY - Of the recommendations that the government has chosen not to support? What are the more significant ones?
KRISTY MCBAIN - Look, I guess, for us, definitely around the aerial firefighting fleet. I mean, we need to have a sovereign aerial firefighting fleet. We saw it earlier, in this season, when we had planes that had to go to Western Australia from New South Wales, with fire retardant. I mean, that shouldn't be the case, we need to have capable fleets strategically located right across the country, because when a fire takes hold, it's not going to wait for an aircraft to come across the country. They should be in strategic locations. The insurance, one is obviously an absolutely huge one. There is no reporting mechanisms on any of the funding that's gone out to local or state governments or not for profits working within bushfire affected communities to show us whether that money is being spent and hit the ground yet, which I think is really crucial for so many people. You know, the list goes on and on and I think it's so disappointing for some of our communities who are really struggling at the moment, and they want to know that they've got a government to support them through this recovery.
LEON DELANEY - Indeed, the proposal for a sovereign national aerial firefighting fleet, my understanding of what the government's response was that it's something that should be managed by the states and territories, but they were prepared to put some money towards it. If they put forward sufficient money, would that not be an adequate response?
KRISTY MCBAIN - Look, well, I'd love to see some money put towards it is that is the case. You know, in 2019, effectively two years ago, from budget night, there was a $4 billion recovery and resilience fund established by this government, $50 million per year that was meant to be spent on mitigation measures in our communities, and not $1 has been spent out of that fund, not $1.
LEON DELANEY - Well, where is it then?
KRISTY MCBAIN - Oh, exactly, right. It's, it's sitting in consolidated revenue, I suppose. But, you know, if you're after mitigation projects, if you're after resilience projects, we could give you a list a mile long, and that's just for my community in Eden-Monaro. There are many other communities across this counctry that have been impacted by natural disasters time and time again, we need to start seeing some money on the ground for these mitigation and resilience projects, so that we aren't beholden to whatever the latest disaster is.
LEON DELANEY - Yeah. Okay, so obviously it's been a while now since the black summer. What's, what's the landscape looking like now? And how are the people feeling?
KRISTY MCBAIN - Look, I think for people who are still in that recovery phase, it is very much a day by day prospect. We know that people are still struggling through the housing issues and through the development application processes in some circumstances. There is now a massive housing crunch right across the electorate. We lost over one thousand homes in this electorate alone, a million hectares of land burnt. We already had a social housing crisis, and that's been exacerbated by the black summer fires. We know that people have chosen to move out of the cities and into the regions during the pandemic. We've got situations now where last week I was in Cooma at a round table, and I was being told by Mission Australia that they have fully employed people living in cars and asking them for food vouchers because they can no longer afford to rent in the region and that's an absolute shock.
LEON DELANEY - That is shocking and on the matter of housing, there have been concerns raised by proposal by Geocon to build a high density and medium density residences in Michelago 60 kilometres south of Canberra. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? What's been proposed?
KRISTY MCBAIN - Look, I think the people of Michelago want some development around their village, but they don't want to lose the village feel. You know, there is no town water, there's no town sewerage there. There's significant issues with water supply. Everyone there at the moment is self sufficient on their own block. So they don't want to drive into a terraced street, they want to see development but they want to see it in the rural amenity that they know and love. There's a happy compromise that could and should be made here, I know that Snowy-Monaro Council have got their master plan out on exhibition, I think submissions closed yesterday. There'll be some obviously, further discussion within the council area but what I would say is, any development that takes place in Michelago needs to keep with the amenity of the village.
LEON DELANEY - Okay and also, you've got a big electorate so there's a lot of things to cover but there have been landslides that have blocked roads between Braidwood and Moruya. Hopefully nobody was harmed in any way, but it's a terrible inconvenience that the roads end up being impassable for so long.
KRISTY MCBAIN - Yeah, that's right. So, you know, with drought and then bushfires and then floods, some of our regional roads have been really significantly impacted. We know people along the Araluen road have had detour through fire trails to get into Moruya, that's had significant impact on an ambulance that was called out at one stage to a resident out there. With the ongoing rain, there's been another slip on that road and that effectively landlocked those residents in there. So there's issues going down to Moruya now and coming back up to Braidwood, you know, regional roads plays such a crucial role in making sure that we can do business in the regions and I hope that there is a solution coming soon. I know that the residents there are really concerned and they want action put in place now. But they also want long term action and that is one of the reasons that the council has applied for Federal Government funding through the bushfire recovery grants, and hopefully those grants will be announced very soon.
LEON DELANEY - Indeed and speaking of the Federal Government, it is budget night of course you got your good dress out ready?
KRISTY MCBAIN - Of course I'm very excited about budget night. So I just came from the most bizarre vote in the chamber I have to tell you Leon. In March this year, Andrew Lamming said he would resign immediately from his position as Chair of the Education Committee, the Prime Minister confirmed he would resign and today we've had a vote in Parliament and Andrew Lamming, not only did he not resign, the Liberal Party has voted to keep him as chair of the education committee.
LEON DELANEY - Really, that's extraordinary under the circumstances for a bloke that's already in so much hot water, you could kill a lobster and he's indicated he won't be contesting the next election whenever that's going to be. He's not exactly held in high regard at the moment by anybody and probably not even by members of his own party. How did that happen?
KRISTY MCBAIN - Yes, they supported him. It was the most bizarre vote that we've just had in the chamber and to be Chair of the Education Committee. I mean, I hope that they're not talking about you know, inclusion and respectful behaviour on social media in this education committee because he has failed every standard that should be upheld by any parliamentarian in here. It was absolutely shocking to see the government support Andrew Lamming keeping that position, that's $10,000 of taxpayers money that is being paid to a man who, as I said, I think has failed the standards of being a parliamentarian.
LEON DELANEY - Well, that is extraordinary. Well, you've shocked me Kristy. I didn't think that was possible.
KRISTY MCBAIN - Oh my God, I didn't think that was possible either Leon.
LEON DELANEY - Thanks very much for chatting today.
KRISTY MCBAIN - No worries. Thank you.
LEON DELANEY - Thanks very much. Kristy McBain Federal Member for Eden-Monaro. And I am a bit shocked. I mean, honestly, Andrew Lamming, I thought both sides have decided well, no, he's, he's not suitable to continue on and really the only reason he's still in the parliament is because it's actually pretty difficult to expel somebody from the parliament.