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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 8412

Senator McKENZIE (Victoria) (15:05): I move:

That the Senate take note of the minister's failure to provide either an answer or an explanation..

The minister has failed to provide either an answer or an explanation, so I move this motion given that his office was called this morning and at the last sitting his office was contacted.

As the chamber is aware, Victorian communities were severely impacted by flood events in December 2011 and February, March and June of this year. For many it was and still remains a very difficult time. The process of recovery—our Queensland colleagues will agree with this—has been a long and arduous journey. For 20 of the local government areas hit by floods in my home state of Victoria, recovery and re-establishment efforts have been increasingly stressful due to inaction by this government. Despite repeated submissions from the Victorian government, who have willingly met all requests for additional information and stand ready to deliver their 50 per cent contribution surrounding category C national disaster relief recovery arrangements funding, still there has been nothing from this government. Under this particular program, primary producers and businesses impacted by severe disaster events are eligible to up to $25,000 to aid recovery. Obviously these moneys are joint funded by state and Commonwealth government. To their absolute credit, the Victorian coalition government have put their money on the table for all these affected areas.

Since the floods, four of the 20 affected Victorian local government areas—Shepparton, Indigo, Moira and Towong—have been granted category C funding approval, and I welcome that decision. Some 769 category C grants have been approved for these four shires, giving us an indication of the extent of the damage inflicted. However, businesses and farming families in Mildura, Campaspe, Benalla, Wodonga, Wangaratta, Grampians, Pyrenees, Murrindindi, Macedon Ranges, Mansfield-Latrobe, Wellington, South Gippsland, East Gippsland, Alpine—I apologise for the length but you can see the extent of the problem, Mr Deputy President—Mitchell, Strathbogie, Whittlesea, Ballarat and Greater Bendigo shires have not been granted the same help yet their need is no less. I have been advised that more than 80 primary producers around Joel Joel were affected by the December 2011 floods with an estimated damage bill of $3.7 million, 400 kilometres of fencing destroyed and 1,500 head of sheep drowned. Thirteen hundred farmers have applied for category C assistance in the Gippsland region following their flood event.

There has been a change around how the government has been dealing with these criteria which is leading to frustration. I will quote from the Deputy Premier of Victoria, who raised this again in a grievance motion last week: 'Again the standards that have been set seem to exceed those that have applied historically. We have been asked to provide more information and we provided it ad nauseam.' They have had conversations, they have had letters. I quote again from the Deputy Premier: 'I say again that we have written letters, we have had the conversations, we have supplied the information, yet either we do not have the responses available or those responses that have come from the Commonwealth simply do not meet the demonstrated needs of the people who are seeking these grants.'

Similarly, the minister's response to this question, put on notice a long time ago, reminded in the last sitting that we would be seeking a response from the Attorney-General, but still we are left waiting. I look forward to the minister representing the Attorney-General getting behind the people of Victoria affected by this flood. I think that the only conclusion, given the minister's answer, is that regional Victoria's flood affected communities will be paying the price for the desperate attempts by this government to find that wafer-thin surplus, and it is simply not good enough.

Question agreed to.