Media Releases

Media releases from the Office of Susan Templeman MP.

Enquiries from the media should be directed to the Media Adviser via the Electorate Office on (02) 4573 8222 or via email to [email protected]

Doorstop Interview on Bushfire Recovery

March 02, 2020

SUSAN TEMPLEMAN, MEMBER FOR MACQUARIE: I’m Susan Templeman the Member for Macquarie. There’s two bushfire recovery issues I want to raise today.

One is the slow pace at which funding is coming through for small businesses in the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury. I spent the weekend talking to small businesses, they are hanging on by a thread making sure their staff have work. They’re employing their staff ahead of themselves and the struggle is real. None of the grants apply for the majority of my businesses; they didn’t burn to the ground, they fought off fire for weeks but they didn’t actually burn, so they miss out completely. They’ve had smoke damage, they’ve had no customers, and even now the recovery process is so slow that they are probably in a worse position now than they were a month ago. I raised these issues with the Minister and with the Head of Recovery back on the 13th of January, and nothing has happened to help our businesses to make a tangible difference.

The other issue that is infuriating businesses is the government’s decision to take money away from bushfire recovery to give to Queensland to tackle Coronavirus tourism. So, we’ve learnt that of the $76 million that was given to Tourism Australia to help raise the profile and encourage people to visit bushfire areas has actually had $25 million diverted to Cairns.

Now, there is no doubt that tourist operators in Cairns will need help but that is no reason to take it away from bushfire affected areas when the recovery has not even kicked in. I’m just appalled that the government would make a big announcement with lots of fanfare and then quietly take away a third of the funding that they promised for bushfire affected communities.

JOUNALIST: Have you spoken to the Minister about that?

TEMPLEMAN: I will absolutely be raising how appalled I am with the Minister. I had a briefing through the Minister’s office about the tourism money to find out how it would get down to my local communities. There’s very little of it that’s being seen on the ground, and I’ve got to tell you when I was in the Blue Mountains over the weekend talking to businesses they’re starting to see a trickle of tourists come back but there’s certainly not the wave that they need. 

JOURNALIST: The bushfire tourism money that was promised first, you believe it should be delivered first?

TEMPLEMAN: Absolutely. These are places that were on fire before Christmas. We’re talking about fires that go back, really, to the middle of the year. Yet the money was very slow, the government was very slow to respond to the needs of local businesses, to accommodation places, to restaurants, to cafes. When they finally did respond way too late, it only lasted a couple of weeks before it’s been taken away from them. There has been so little benefit that’s hit the ground, it’s an outrage that the government’s whipped away a third of it to battle yet another big crisis, which it absolutely has to address.

JOURNALIST: But this is a global, potentially, pandemic, does it not make sense in this instance for it to be diverted to them in an extraordinary circumstance that needs to be addressed potentially as quickly as the fallout from the bushfires?

TEMPLEMAN: I think people are forgetting that our bushfires were unprecedented. They needed an extraordinary response as well. On top of that we have another issue, and absolutely the government should be addressing that. This is not a time to be worrying about how good your surplus looks on paper or otherwise, it’s a time to be responding fast to the needs of small businesses. My small businesses want to keep people employed, that’s their prime objective, they want to keep their doors open. They can’t do that if bushfire funding is not flowing through to them, nor can they do that without a good response to the Coronavirus.

JOURNALIST: Do you think because of the way the Federal Government was criticised for not jumping onto the bushfire crisis straight away they now might be jumping onto the Coronavirus to essentially redeem themselves?

TEMPLEMAN: They should be responding promptly to things that people are saying on the ground. Our small businesses are the litmus test for the economy. If they’re saying things are tough, then the government should be listening to them and not holding its fire or waiting to see what happens. These are things that need to be responded to fast. They translate directly to jobs, and we see ourselves going down in a spiral if there isn’t appropriate response, so that my small businesses can keep people employed.

JOURNALIST: Do you think small businesses should be (inaudible) tax relief by State Governments? Do you think State Governments should step up (inaudible) payroll tax relief?

TEMPLEMAN: I think there’s a whole range of things that government can do, State and Federal Governments, and councils are doing things too. But it has to happen now and it’s no good just blaming each other for it. I note that the NSW Government is blaming the Federal Government for a poor criteria for money flowing through to small businesses. Basically we’ve got a situation where government criteria is too tight, it doesn’t cover smoke damage, it only covers businesses that burnt to the ground. We’ve also got not enough of it being done in grants. Small business are not what small businesses need right now; remember, this is coming off an economy that was really soft, they didn’t have a good buffer to keep them going. So they need a fast response but this Government, the loan criteria and the grant criteria is too constrained, the pace has been too slow, basically the response has been plain mean.

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