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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10385

Australian Natural Disasters

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (15:05): My question is to the Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management. Will the minister inform the House how the government supports Australians during disaster seasons; and is the minister aware of any avoidable risks leading up to this disaster season?

Ms ROXON (GellibrandAttorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management) (15:06): I thank the member for Blair for his question. Both the member for Blair and the member for Oxley, along with a number of members on the other side of the House, have been very involved in raising with me the impacts on their communities of disasters, whether it was Black Saturday, the Queensland floods, Cyclone Yasi or floods in the last season. There are many of these events, unfortunately, that occur, and we are coming into another season now where Australians need to make sure that they are prepared for them.

People are probably aware that the Commonwealth contributes a significant amount of money to supporting communities in such times of trouble. In the course of the year 2011-12, the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements provided approximately $3 billion to affected communities.

When disaster strikes, people expect that communities will pull together. The member for Blair asked the question. I went to his local SES and worked with and met a number of people who are volunteer firefighters, who are involved in all sorts of assistance to the community. It is why we read with, frankly, some large shock that more than half of Queensland's Rural Fire Service, their uniformed officers, are being sacked as a result of cuts by the Queensland government—more than half.

Opposition members interjecting

Ms ROXON: People might be calling out over there, but I know—and I do not make any political point about this—that there are many regional members who come to talk to me who want assistance, appropriately, for their communities. We have been engaging and discussing with them, whether it is the member for Riverina, the member for McEwen or the Independents. Unlike the outrageous comments that were made earlier in question time, we do not actually care how those communities vote. They are entitled to assistance and they should not be going through what they are going through in Queensland, in a state of shock that more than half of the uniformed officers in the Rural Fire Service are being sacked by Premier Newman.

As we go into disaster season, we cannot afford to lose confidence in those vital services, whether it is the SES, the fire service or our police. On this side of the House, we want to work with emergency personnel and provide them with the support that is needed. Unfortunately, the Liberals around the country do not think that is so important and we do not know what this man opposite would do if he were the Prime Minister.