• Tony Bosworth

Slap in the face for Hawkesbury says furious Templeman as not one cent spent from disaster fund

Federal government expects to earn $1.2bn in interest from unused funds – Senate Estimates hears

“What we've got now in the Hawkesbury are roads that have been absolutely devastated, and communities who are desperate for action,” MP Susan Templeman said today after Department of Home Affairs officials confirmed not a cent had been spent on disaster victims from its Emergency Response Fund (ERF).

“The people of Lower Portland, the people of Upper Colo, the people of Cornwallis, all of whom have their lives in total limbo while governments decide what's going to happen to repair their roads,” Ms Templeman said.

Department of Home Affairs officials confirmed in Senate Estimates this week that the government expects to earn $1.2 billion in interest from its Emergency Response Fund (ERF) over the five years to June 2025, yet it has not spent a cent yet on helping bushfire and flood victims.

“While communities are crying out for investment, all the government’s Emergency Response Fund (ERF) is doing is racking up interest,” Ms Templeman said.

“It's putting money in the pockets of the Morrison Government, it's not giving anything back to our roads, our infrastructure, and our businesses, all of which affects our economy.”

Officials at the Senate Estimates hearing confirmed not one project has been funded from the ERF since it was announced in April 2019.

“This is an absolute slap in the face to the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains, which is reeling from catastrophic bushfires and two floods in the past 18 months alone,” the MP said.

“Not a single cent of this money that's set aside specifically for natural disasters, to mitigate against them, has been spent in my communities.

“Right now, there are people who, instead of driving five kilometres to take their kids to the bus stop, have to do a 30-kilometre round trip on dirt roads, because for nine weeks nothing’s being done to remediate or stabilise their road. That is not good enough.

“There was always a flaw in this fund in my eyes – the fact you couldn't spend it on a natural disaster until after the natural disaster occurred, which I never understood.

“This fund was set up so the government could invest in devastated communities, and we in the Hawkesbury need this done with speed.

“It needs to be a combined effort from the local councils, state government, and the Federal Government. The government can't just sit back at a Federal Government level and say, 'Oh, well, we're waiting to see what people ask for'.

“The Federal Government needs to be absolutely engaged in the recovery in the Hawkesbury. They can't do what they've done ever since I've known them and that is step back.

“The Prime Minister didn't hold a hose during the fires, but he’s holding the purse strings now. Now's the time for him to get up, be involved, be accountable and help fix some of the problems that people are seeing in the floods.”

The ERF was announced and operational in 2019 –Labor also supported it in Parliament - to fund up to $200 million in natural disaster recovery and mitigation per financial year.

But since the announcement was made, not a single evacuation route, cyclone shelter, or fire break has been built, “and not a single dollar has been given to disaster victims from this fund,” Ms Templeman said.

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