Disaster readiness must also be a priority

10 March 2022

CANBERRA MATTERS - Cessnock Advertiser

After the past two 'COVID' years, we were all hoping for a more positive 2022, but so far that has not been the case.

Uncertainty has crept into our everyday lives once again with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and, closer to home, the devastating flooding of homes and entire communities leading to tragic loss of life.

While locally we have not experienced the devastation wreaked on many communities to our north and south, some of us have still been dealing with threats of flooding and inundation of our properties.

We have been fortunate on this occasion to have largely missed the worst of the devastation.

Our hearts go out to the people of Lismore, especially, and I was pleased to be able to join local efforts to send supplies to that community. Thank you everyone for thinking of those in desperate need, and for committing your time and your donations to the relief effort.

It is vitally important that flood victims receive disaster assistance as quickly as possible and that the process is easy to navigate and does not make them jump through unnecessary hoops.

We need to make sure the government does its job and supports those in need.

But our government must also take action before the disasters strike.

Disaster preparedness is so important in a country such as Australia, particularly as our climate becomes more volatile.

The Morrison Government has a $4.8 billion disaster fund, but they have never used it for disaster recovery or for disaster readiness.

We're now in our third disaster season since the fund was created and not a cent has been spent on disaster recovery and not a single disaster readiness project has been built. These millions could have been used to build flood levees, evacuation centres, culverts, and drainage systems.

Instead, that money has earned the Morrison government over $800 million in interest.

Our Prime Minister must explain why the Emergency Relief Fund is helping his government's budget bottom line but failing to look after Australians who are in the midst of another tragic natural disaster.

Australians deserve to be backed by a government that looks forward, plans, and prevents the worst from natural disasters.

We know weather events happen and we have the knowledge and the resources to be able to prepare and prevent the extent of damage.

If elected, a Labor Government will revamp the failed Emergency Relief Fund and create a new Disaster Ready Fund.

Up to $200 million a year would be invested on disaster readiness to protect lives and livelihoods.

Labor's fund would invest in flood levees, evacuation centres, culverts, and drainage systems to keep Australians safe.

We would continue to fully fund disaster recovery through the usual budget arrangements, but our Disaster Ready Fund will provide a permanent, dedicated fund for disaster readiness.

Labor is committed to building a better future for disaster-prone communities. We want to cut red tape so disaster resilience funding can get out the door faster.

We know there are some things we cannot control, but we can and must do more to help communities who are vulnerable to face the onslaught of natural disasters by being as prepared as possible.