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Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Page: 2451


Mr LITTLEPROUD (MaranoaMinister for Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management) (09:52): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

It's a great pleasure that I move the Emergency Response Fund Bill 2019. The Liberal-National government provides substantial assistance to communities across Australia that have been significantly affected by a natural disaster.

The Emergency Response Fund is a long-term investment to provide an additional source of sustainable funding for emergency response and recovery following a natural disaster that has a significant or catastrophic impact on Australia.

The Emergency Response Fund is designed to support the delivery of projects and services and promote the adoption of technology directed towards achieving recovery from natural disasters.

The type of assistance provided could include, but is not limited to, additional recovery grants and support to affected communities or industry sectors to help their recovery and to build their resilience to future natural disasters.

This bill establishes the Emergency Response Fund and provides an initial credit of $4 billion. The government intends to grow the fund to provide a new secure funding source to complement existing natural disaster recovery programs.

In the event that a community is significantly or catastrophically impacted by a natural disaster, the government will have access to a maximum of $150 million per year to fund recovery measures.

This funding is over and above the funding already made available by the Liberal-National government to assist communities across Australia recover from natural disasters, such as the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, the Australian government Disaster Recovery Payment and the Disaster Recovery Allowance.

The government has paid, on average, $1.1 billion per year over the past ten years on disaster recovery assistance.

The fund will only be accessed when the government determines existing recovery programs are insufficient to meet the scale of the response required.

Payments from the Emergency Response Fund will be available from 2019-20 and will be limited to $150 million to protect the balance of the fund into the future. This limit will be reassessed within 10 years, to determine whether the fund could support a higher maximum annual disbursement.

The Emergency Response Fund will be managed by the Future Fund Board of Guardians, which has a proven track record of managing investment portfolios on behalf of the government and maximising returns over the long term.

The bill requires the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance to issue directions setting out the government's expectations as to how the fund will be managed and invested by the board, including setting a benchmark rate of return for the fund.

The design of disaster response and recovery funding programs will be considered by the Minister for Emergency Management and will be informed by advice from the Commonwealth's expert on natural disaster management, the Director-General of Emergency Management Australia.

The director-general is highly qualified for this role and is responsible for coordinating the Australian government's physical and financial support for disasters. In preparing advice for the minister, the director-general will consult with the state and or local governments and communities affected by the disaster, and any other expert, to determine the needs of the community and identify any additional recovery assistance that would be beneficial.

All funding decisions will comply with the Commonwealth's established rules and guidelines on grants and procurements. Detailed information on grants and arrangements under the Emergency Response Fund will be published on the Department of Home Affairs website.

The government has been absolutely clear that the use of the dormant Education Investment Fund to deliver the Emergency Response Fund will have absolutely no impact on the funding provided by the government for education infrastructure.

The government is committed to a world-class higher education system and is investing a record $17.7 billion in the university sector in 2019. This is projected to grow to more than $19 billion by 2022. The government has recently made significant investments into education infrastructure projects including $150 million to support the relocation and redevelopment of the University of Tasmania's Launceston and Burnie campuses and a further $30 million earmarked for the establishment of a new Central Queensland School of Mining and Manufacturing.

The government has made its education investments without needing to draw from the Education Investment Fund. The last commitment was announced in 2013 and all commitments have been paid.

Helping our communities across Australia face the challenges of recovering from natural disasters is a priority of this government and, because we have made substantial education infrastructure commitments, we are in a position to build a sustainable source of additional funding to help communities recover from the impacts of natural disasters. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.