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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

‘Gratuitous partisanship’ could overshadow bushfire report

In federal politics’ big-budget week, the Senate Finance Committee quietly released its interim report into the preparation, planning, response, and recovery lessons learnt from the 2019-20 bushfire season.

The Committee made 13 recommendations including: more mitigation funding, increasing disaster recovery payments, and developing a national warning system and national aerial firefighting force.

In a dissenting report, Liberal Senator for Victoria James Paterson, and Liberal Senator for Queensland Paul Scarr disagreed with several recommendations and said “gratuitous partisanship” could overshadow the report’s findings.

“There is a fine line between supporting Australians in crisis and inadvertently providing disincentive for insurance and personal responsibility,” the report states.

Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Kristy McBain said it was unbelievable the Coalition Senators decided to lecture the thousands of bushfire-affected Australians on “personal responsibility” after the devastation of last summer. 

“I hear from bushfire victims across Eden-Monaro every day who are still struggling to re-build their lives after the devastating Black Summer,” Ms McBain said.
“For Coalition Senators to suggest that increasing disaster payments to bushfire victims acts as an insurance disincentive is a complete slap in the face to the thousands of people in my electorate who are desperate for help.

“The ability to afford insurance is an issue in its own right – and these comments are a hurtful and ignorant attempt by this government to shirk its responsibility to bushfire victims.”

The Senators disagreed with the recommendation to provide the ABC with annual emergency broadcast services discretionary funding.

“Should it (the ABC) feel that its news coverage of emergencies is lacking, Coalition Senators encourage the ABC to repurpose funds from other parts of the organisation to ensure that it provides a level of news coverage during emergencies that Australians expect.”

The dissenting report argued against further hazard reduction funding and the creation of an aerial firefighting fleet on the basis they were the responsibility of the states.

It also provided an “in-principle agreement” for research into the health impacts of bushfire smoke on the population and the success of telehealth but did not commit to further funding.

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