Commonwealth must pay its fair share to help Queensland cope with disasters

Published Wednesday, 07 March, 2018 at 09:30 AM

Minister for Fire and Emergency Services
The Honourable Craig Crawford

Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford today called on the Opposition Leader to publicly clarify whether she backs Queenslanders – or changes imposed by her LNP colleagues in Canberra to the state’s natural disaster relief funding.

Mr Crawford said the Commonwealth was neglecting Queenslanders by changing the eligibility of National Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) funding.

He said the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) face being “slugged with a hefty bill” every time the State Disaster Co-ordination Centre (SDCC) and State Operation Centres (SOC) are activated during emergencies like cyclones.

“Queensland unfortunately doesn’t miss out when it comes to natural disasters, but we are now facing the prospect of missing out on crucial Commonwealth funding,” Mr Crawford said.

“I’d like to know what the newly-minted Opposition Leader thinks about Canberra’s changes to the eligibility of NDRRA funding.

“Those changes mean QFES can no longer automatically claim back through the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) “eligible extraordinary costs” - such as running state-level operational centres for counter disaster operations.

“These centres bring together our key agencies to help deal with emergencies – including cyclones - to provide vital updates to authorities, including the Federal Government.

“This is a necessary and expensive undertaking. For example, the 18-day activation during last year’s Tropical Cyclone Debbie cost more than $1.1 million dollars.

“More than $800,000 of these costs – which included wages, consumables, catering, and direct support from the Bureau of Meteorology – were deemed to be “eligible” costs under NDRRA, and able to be claimed.

“But that’s all changed under the NDRRA Determination 2017, which came into effect last July.

“It’s my understanding that unless we provide proof of “exhaustion of resources”, QFES and assisting Queensland agencies will have to dig into their own pockets to cover these expenses – putting unwanted and unexpected pressure on their budgets.”

Mr Crawford has written to Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Minister Angus Taylor to argue for the funding eligibility criteria to be reinstated.

“The Turnbull Government is well aware of this state’s dependence on our operational centres, which provide an unfailing over-watch on our natural hazards and emergencies,” Mr Crawford said.

“The State Disaster Coordination Centre (SDCC) plays an important role in reducing the costs of a natural disaster by placing our highly skilled people and resources where they are most needed, hereby helping to mitigate the impact.

“And given the number of emergencies Queensland experiences annually, I’m calling on the Member for Nanango to support safety in our communities by backing Queenslanders – not more cuts.

“Queensland is currently in our cyclone and storm season, and I’ve recently travelled to Yam Island, Moranbah and Townsville to inspect damage caused by the severe weather.

“Our hard-working QFES personnel, and disaster management in general, continue to impress – which is more than I can say about the LNP,” he said.


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