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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3398

Mr PERRETT (Moreton) (16:05): I rise to speak on the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Disaster Recovery Allowance) Bill 2013. I thank the member for Stirling for his contribution and also the opposition for the bipartisan support for this piece of legislation. As a Queenslander, I say that it is important that there be bipartisan support.

My electorate of Moreton was particularly heavily hit in the 2011 floods. I saw the damage that occurred. Literally, the water was at the end of my street. I had over 5,200 properties affected. Many small businesses in my electorate were affected back in 2010. In fact, I have 19,000 small businesses and arguably all of them suffered economic loss, so that is a $1.9 billion commitment that the member for Stirling has just made for the future if there were a similar disaster. Remember, the water in the 2011 floods in my electorate was one metre lower than the 1974 floods.

The member for Stirling has introduced this new financial commitment where businesses that suffer economic loss can access up to $100,000 in loans locked in at four per cent. Obviously that is a significant financial commitment and I look forward to the Leader of the Opposition detailing tomorrow night the offsets for such a financial commitment.

The reality is Queensland is one of the states that are more prone to disasters, particularly when you get above the Tropic of Capricorn. We had that double whammy 2½ years back: there were floods in Toowoomba, the Lockyer Valley, Brisbane and other areas—my home town of St George, Emerald and many others were hit by floods—and then we had Cyclone Yasi as well, a category 5 cyclone that crossed over the coast near Tully and Mission Beach. It ripped through North Queensland leaving significant economic damage. If you have your entire banana crop wiped out, $100,000 will not be the compensation; it will not set you up for that. Nevertheless, I will be interested to see what happens tomorrow night when the Leader of the Opposition does respond.

The Social Security Legislation Amendment (Disaster Recovery Allowance) Bill 2013 is a piece of legislation that has bipartisan support for a number of reasons. The purpose is to create a new income support payment for individuals affected by major disaster. It is certainly a very Australian response and I note the member for Mallee, who would have had people go through his—

Mr Forrest interjecting

Mr PERRETT: I remember, I think we went to your electorate when we were looking at insurance problems that flowed after these disasters. He well knows the problem with too much water coming down the river, or no water coming down the river if it is a drought. We need to get these disasters right. We are a sunburnt country, a land of floods and too many droughts. The problem with Australia is we do have a range. It is hard to get insurance right and it is hard to get the compensation right. But a good government that makes decisions in the national interest looks at the payments that are available to people after a major disaster, and that is what we have done. I did indicate the support of the opposition for this.

At the moment there are two types of payments. The first is the lump sum payment known as the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment. I particularly commend Centrelink for the great work they did in my electorate after the floods. They were on the ground, basically, with mud on their feet, making sure that people had money. They learnt a horrible lesson from the Victorian bushfires when they realised that some of the identity safeguards mean nothing if your house has been washed away or burnt to the ground. The Centrelink personnel did a great job. There will always be the odd crook, but I do not think we should respond to natural disasters by treating everyone as a crook.

The second response is by way of ex gratia payments made on an ad hoc basis to those requiring ongoing assistance following major disasters. The new income support payment, the disaster recovery allowance, the DRA, will formalise the payment of ongoing assistance following major disasters, which have until now been by way of ex gratia payments, and is separate from the AGDRP. It is intended that either or both the DRA and the AGDRP could be activated in the event of a disaster, depending on the nature and effect of the particular disaster.

It is a piece of legislation that is supported by both sides or the chamber. I see the member for Blair, the parliamentary secretary, here in the chamber. His electorate was particularly hard hit. He was on the same committee as me. It looked at insurance response after disasters, so we have been all around the nation looking at how people were treated, insurance-wise, but we also incidentally received evidence on the various government responses. This is long overdue and I commend the legislation to the House.