FLOOD AFFECTED LOCALS LET DOWN BY A SLEEPING FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
I am extremely reluctant to weigh into Federal issues, but two weeks ago, Scott Morrison declared a National Emergency for both NSW and Queensland as a result of flood events. I won’t go into the details of the announcement being more than a week late for Queensland and at least 3-4 days late for NSW, but we did have to wait for him to become COVID free so that he could be on hand, in front of the cameras, to make the announcement.
The Prime Minister took this step, for the first time in Australia, despite not being asked to do so, at the time, by either State. He said that he would talk to the States after the announcement had been made and the photos had been taken for the media.
We all remember Mr Morrison for his “I don’t hold a hose” comment when the country was burning and he was in Hawaii back in 2019-20. Following that catastrophic weather event he sought the power of the Federal Parliament to be able to declare a National Emergency so that he could be well and truly in a hose holding ready position the next time disaster struck.
In declaring the National Emergency condition two weeks ago, Mr Morrison said it was to “make sure all emergency power is available and we cut through and red tape that might be faced”. A good set of words to use in front of the eager media.
Two days later, Cessnock, Singleton and Maitland were declared disaster affected LGA’s, along with 9 others. Reasonable people assumed that this would entitle them to also access the Federal Government supports, after all, Mr Morrison was committed to acting ahead of any State requests and committed to removing the red-tape.
As I write this column, it is now 7 days since the State of NSW declared the Cessnock, Singleton and Maitland LGAs to be disaster affected, by the flood events. And on this very same day, despite the best efforts of local State and Federal MP’s, the Federal Government have failed to accept or recognise this disaster declaration, which means that local people devastated by flooding events cannot get any Federal help.
Personally I have tried calling the Federal Minister’s office, on multiple occasions, to get the problem sorted out. Unfortunately, despite my calls being made during normal business/office hours, I have only been able to reach the answering machine in the Ministers office, telling me that they are currently closed and that I should ring back Mon-Fri and from 9-5.
I have also called the disaster hotline of both the State and Federal level, pointing out the failure of the Federal scheme to add the various NSW LGAs to the eligible list so that payments could be processed. “Nothing we can do” I was told.
I can only figure that the bloke that doesn’t hold the hose also doesn’t have a process in place to match Federal disaster areas to State disaster areas and clearly doesn’t expect his relevant Minister to answer phones or possibly even attend work and have websites and claims procedures updated. Meanwhile we have families sleeping on floors with no furniture, fridges or funds. For goodness sake!
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