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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 640

Mr RIPOLL (3:11 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the government’s reconstruction efforts following the recent natural disasters?

Ms GILLARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Oxley for his question. As members of the House would know, not only does he represent a flood affected region but, indeed, his own electorate office was flooded. I did want to draw the attention of the House to a number of announcements that have been made about further assistance for those affected by natural disasters since the House last sat. When the House last sat, of course, we did in part talk through arrangements that had been made for natural disaster assistance. They included: the Australian government disaster relief payment; emergency money; the income subsidy arrangement, which helps people who, either as working people or as small business owners or primary producers, are unable to go about their normal income-earning activity because of natural disaster; concessional loans; clean-up money and the like to support people, whether they be in small businesses or households; and some relief for householders who need to purchase new household effects and deal with the consequences of natural disasters in their home.

Since the parliament has last sat, the government has made two important announcements. I do direct people’s attention, particularly those from Queensland, to the announcement that we made to support community groups in Queensland. I know that in the member for Oxley’s area—just one subset, but it was true right across Queensland—community groups have come to the fore, and many community groups themselves have been impacted by the natural disaster. So, under category C of the natural disaster relief and recovery arrangements, we are providing recovery grants of up to $25,000 for not-for-profit organisations in 36 local areas affected by recent disasters. Of course, under our standing arrangements for natural disasters, that is funded 75 per cent by the Commonwealth and 25 per cent by the state.

I also had the opportunity in the week the parliament did not sit to tour cyclone affected areas. I did that with the member for Kennedy. It was in his electorate, and I thank him for accompanying me during that visit. The member for Kennedy arranged for me to see some people who had been quite devastated by the cyclone in Tully Heads. Their homes have been very, very badly hit by the cyclone and will need a lot of assistance to get back. It also enabled me to meet with local banana growers, representatives of the Cardwell community, the Mission Beach community and Dunk Island community and to talk broadly with the local council about local needs.

I want to draw people’s attention to the fact that we have announced a specific cyclone recovery package. It is modelled on what was done in Cyclone Larry, but it is actually an improvement in significant areas. It provides for concessional loans of up to $650,000—that is a higher level. It provides for a grant component of up to $50,000. It provides for wage assistance to help businesses remain viable and to hold their workforces. It provides a $20 million rural resilience fund to enable communities to recover and come through. So I direct the attention of members in affected areas to these announcements. They will no doubt be called on to provide information to their local constituents. I believe it is very important to bring that to the House’s attention so that the right information can get to local community members.