$200m recovery and mitigation fund questioned again

Labor leader Anthony Albanese and Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain in late May, meeting with orchardist Ian Cathels in Batlow.

Gilmore MP Fiona Phillips has joined Eden-Monaro MP Kristy McBain in questioning the government about its $200 million recovery and mitigation fund.

Last month, Ms McBain asked Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time why not “a single cent” from the fund had been used for her bushfire affected electorate.

Last Wednesday, Ms Phillips echoed Ms McBain’s calls, asking Mr Morrison why “not a single dollar has been spent” considering the next fire season is upon us.

Minister for Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud responded to her question and said that the fund – named the Emergency Response Fund (ERF) – provides funding in two tranches, including $150 million to be spent on rebuilding infrastructure.

“That hasn’t been used because we have created a $2 billion fund in which to rebuild the infrastructure that was devastated by these fires, and that was predicated on advice of the Director-General of Emergency Management Australia (EMA),” Mr Littleproud said. 

“They didn’t believe that it was worth doing that because we had created this other mechanism in which to do that.”

The remaining $50 million is for resilience building, and Mr Littleproud said that the EMA Director-General is “taking submissions” and will soon provide him with some of these programs.

Mr Littleproud also said he had spoken with Ms McBain last week about “putting forward projects that her community may benefit from.”

The Minister suggested that he didn’t want to “rush” the recovery process, instead wanting to take a “calm, methodical” approach that uses “Australian taxpayers’ money in the most effective way.”

“We need to make sure that we understand the trauma that these people went through and that they are at different stages of recovery. We need to allow them and their communities to decide what that recovery looks like, what resilience looks like, into the future,” he said. 

“To rush that isn’t about making sure that it’s a locally led recovery. This means that it will be a Canberra led recovery.”

Ms McBain said in the past that the spirits of those in her electorate were “depleted” on hearing “that $50 million that could be supporting their work right now is still sitting in Treasury.”

“The jobs, confidence and reassurance this money would have injected into places like Tumbarumba, Bombay, Verona, Carwoola, Delegate, and Bodalla is a heartbreaking dropped ball,” she said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told The Times in September that a formal decision of the Government is required in order to access the ERF.

“[Minister Littleproud] has responsibility for developing proposals for Government consideration on when the ERF should be accessed and the design of programs to be funded, informed by advice from the Director General of Emergency Management Australia,” the spokesperson said.

“The Australian Government is considering opportunities to use the pre‑disaster resilience component of the Emergency Response Fund ($50m) to support projects and programs that promote pre‑disaster resilience across Australia.”