Anthony Albanese has promised Queensland voters that a Labor government would spend an extra $200 million on Australia’s natural disaster response every year.
Before speaking to voters on Wednesday, Albanese delivered a rousing promise directed at those who need it most: an annual booster of $200 million to the nation’s $4.7 billion Emergency Response Fund, via interest earned on the Commonwealth’s Future Fund.
If they win at the federal election, Labor would dampen the crippling impacts of natural disasters felt most by Queensland voters by investing in prevention projects like flood levees, sea walls, cyclone shelters, evacuation centres, fire breaks, and telecommunications improvements.
“These investments will literally save lives, not to mention the taxpayers’ funds that have to be spent on recovery and repairs when disasters hit,” Albanese said in prepared remarks on Wednesday.
“Australians are renowned as the best disaster responders in the world. They deserve to be backed by a government that looks forward, plans and prevents the worst.”
The fund offers itself as a remix of the Morrison government’s pre-existing Emergency Response Fund, which has attracted mounting criticism for failing to complete any of the disaster-prevention projects it promised.
Albanese said if the $200 million commitment was matched by state and territory governments, it would provide an extra $400 million in disaster mitigation investment annually.
“Thousands of Australians who face bushfires, floods and cyclones every year deserve to be protected by a federal government who plans ahead and invests to keep them safe,” Albanese said in a statement.
The idea isn’t a new one. Labor’s plan borrows from recommendations made by a Productivity Commission report on natural disaster funding published in 2015, left largely ignored by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the time.
In the government’s response, Turnbull suggested most of the report’s recommendations fell into state government remits, and that his government would instead lead coordination efforts among state, territory and local governments.
“The proposed new disaster funding arrangements will give greater autonomy to state, territory and local governments to reconstruct damaged public assets in a way that is cost-effective and best suits the needs of local communities,” the Turnbull government said in its response to the report.
“Further, the new arrangements will be supported by national minimum requirements for damage assessment and estimated reconstruction pricing. This will reduce the audit and assurance red tape placed on states and territories under the current reimbursement model.”
The Morrison government later established the Emergency Response Fund in 2019, but has since been reluctant to use it as it tallies healthy interest returns. So far, the government has earned $750 million on the untouched cash.
In the 2021 federal budget, the Morrison government announced a new Prepare Australia fund, which allocated $600 million to disaster measures over six years. The fund attracted heat from the opposition, who accused the Morrison government of sitting on the funds, which had “done nothing to help” distressed Australians.
“Three years after it was announced, the ERF has not spent a cent on disaster recovery and has not completed a single disaster prevention project. The only thing it has done is earn the government over $750m in investment returns,” Albanese said.
“As with COVID-19, the Morrison government’s failure to plan and prepare for natural disasters has left Australians vulnerable.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. We know weather events are on the horizon — we have the smarts and the resources to prepare and prevent. We just need a government with a plan.”
Source: Thanks msn.com