Media Releases

Media releases from the Office of Susan Templeman MP.

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DOORSTOP INTERVIEW, PARLIAMENT HOUSE CANBERRA: Bushfire recovery rorts; effect of JobKeeper tapering off.

February 15, 2021

SUSAN TEMPLEMAN, MEMBER FOR MACQUARIE: I’m Susan Templeman the Federal Member for Macquarie. We’re seeing more details now about how closely tied the Federal Government is to the decisions being made in NSW about bushfire rorts. We know that NSW has favoured Liberal-held State seats in its awarding of – Liberal and National seats – in its awarding of bushfire funding under the local economy recovery fund. We know that Blue Mountains City Council has received not a single cent of funding, but we also know that some of the work that was meant to be done was going to be based on a report. So, I want to talk about the Peter Crone report - $136,000 of Federal funding was given to Mr Crone. He was selected by the Prime Minister’s office and he is a former Liberal staffer. Now, he was asked to do some data around the impacts of bushfire. What he found, for instance, was that the Blue Mountains had a 48.1 per cent impact from bushfire, and he found that the Snowy Valley had a 47.9 per cent impact from bushfire, and that’s in terms of area. So how did that information - which was paid for by the Federal Government, handed to the NSW Government - how did that play out in the allocating of bushfire rorts? Well, the Snowy Mountains got millions of dollars in funding, millions of dollars for the Snowy Valleys, and not a single cent for the Blue Mountains LGA. So there are two issues here; why pay for a report that no one’s going to bother paying any attention to? Why give a Liberal Party former staffer money to go and do work that is then not even looked at? And why is the Federal Government stepping back and avoiding any answering of questions around this issue? This is Federal money, there’s a Federally-funded report that went to inform the NSW Government, yet as always this government is ignoring answering questions about it. They are absolutely tied hand-in-glove to the way these projects, these decisions are being made and they way these projects are being allocated.  

Today, I’m writing to the Minister and to the National Bushfire Recovery Agency asking them, and demanding from them, that they make sure that Federal MPs are consulted about the granting of this money. This is Federal money, not just State money. Already the NSW Government has backed down and it has agreed to include State MPs in the decision-making process. So today I’m writing to demand that Federal MPs are involved in the process. Now, my understanding is that this should be an across-the-board thing. Every state where there is Commonwealth and State funding being decided on needs to have its Federal MPs involved. We’re on the ground, we’re talking to people every week about what they’re finding. So, I absolutely demand that the Federal Government steps up and takes some responsibility here, it doesn’t just say, oh it’s the NSW Government’s job. It’s their job to make sure that this Federal funding is fairly spent. Right now, $177 million in NSW has been allocated secretly in terms of the decision-making process. We know who’s got it, but we don’t know how the decisions were made. There are some very worthy projects that have been allocated funding but that doesn’t explain why extremely worthy projects in the Blue Mountains Local Government Area have been completely ignored.

JOURNALIST: Do you think we’ve lost our humanity here a bit with the obsession with marginal seats, pork barrelling, politically charged grants and certain aspects? I mean, it was a bushfire, do you think there’s a loss of perspective here?

TEMPLEMAN: As the most marginal seat in the country, that logic doesn’t even actually stack up because here we are, the most marginal seat, and half the electorate got funding – the half with the State Liberal Member – and the other half with a State Labor Member got nothing. So when both levels of government are involved, you really need to see equity in every single way. What people who’ve been affected by bushfire want to see is some help. It is going to be nearly 18 months after the bushfires before this funding gets allocated. One of the things we know is that the NSW Government is already crying out saying, we can’t, we haven’t got the resources to get through all the applications we’ve received. They received hundreds of applications for the remaining money in this fund. That’s another place where the Federal Government needs to step in and say, hey you’re having a hard time here, we will help you. That’s a role for the Federal Government to play, that’s where it can show some humanity, that’s where it can step up and take some of its own responsibility, rather than passing it off as it has. It did back in the actual fires, it said, you know, we heard the Prime Minister say, I don’t hold a hose. Well, they have a role here and they need to step up. 

JOURNALIST: What about JobKeeper being taken off next month in these areas and right around the country. Are these areas ready for JobKeeper to go?

TEMPLEMAN: I’ve been speaking with the tourism sector in the Upper Blue Mountains. They are fearful about the loss of JobKeeper. You can’t take an area that is strongly dependent on international tourism while the international borders are still closed and take away the only life support they’ve had. Of course, areas like the Blue Mountains haven’t just dealt with COVID they’ve dealt with the bushfires and we really need to see for those areas a continuation of serious support. You can’t replace international tourism with domestic tourism. The businesses who have really relied on international tourism are extremely fearful, and what that means in practical terms is more job losses. We’ve already seen a lowering of the employment in that sector, but this will compound it. All I can tell you is that I’m hearing there is fear.