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: Perth bushfires; bushfire recovery rorts; JobKeeper tapering off; climate change.

February 04, 2021

SUSAN TEMPLEMAN, MEMBER FOR MACQUARIE: I’m Susan Templeman the Member for Macquarie, which is the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury. Firstly, I just want to reach out to the people of Perth who are affected by bushfires. It’s something that the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury will be feeling deeply given it’s only a year ago they were in a similar situation. Two of the RFS planes that have headed over to help have come from my electorate, from the Richmond base, and I know the thoughts of everybody in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury are with the people of Perth and the awful situation they’re facing. Having been someone who’s lost their house in a bushfire, I know exactly what people are going through today, waking up to the reality of not having a home and it’s not something you’d wish on anybody. All our thoughts are with them at such a difficult time. 

I think it is the time to say we do need to be doing more to mitigate these big fires and to take action so that we don’t keep seeing this happen again and again. But what we know for the people Perth is they’re going to have a really long journey ahead of them in recovery, because that’s the journey that the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury is on, and unfortunately what we’re seeing is that the recovery is being hampered by unfair decisions at the NSW Government level, which would have to be known to this Morrison Government. There’s a particular fund, it’s a bushfire Local Economic Recovery fund. There was $177 million of projects announced in November. As it’s been exposed, not a single one of those fast-tracked projects was nominated in the Blue Mountains. 

So my electorate is the litmus test for the fairness of the distribution of these funds. Fifty per cent federal funding, 50 per cent state funding. The Hawkesbury in my electorate – which had a large area, about 83 per cent (sic. 73 per cent) burn and a $33 million economic impact – received about $4 million in funding. The Blue Mountains side of my electorate – which had a nearly 50 per cent area burn and a $66 million economic impact – received nothing. Zip, absolutely not a cent of this fast-tracked funding.

Now this is funding that is meant to help stimulate the local economic recovery, and the NSW Government did not consult its State Member Trish Doyle about what was needed in the Blue Mountains. What it did do was ask the Blue Mountains Council what projects they might like to see, and the Mayor of the Blue Mountains has today released a list of projects - $5 million worth of projects – that were ready to roll, ready to go, that would have assisted with recovery from the fires. But the council’s wish list was ignored, the State Member was not consulted, nobody asked me although I have been saying to the National Bushfire Recovery Agency that we need to watch what the NSW Government does. The NSW Government has a track record of rorting public funds, of rorting allocations to pork barrel the electorates they’re targeting. Now that is not the way to recover from a bushfire. We need to see the Morrison Government step up and deal with this issue. They had a hands-off approach during the bushfires, and now they’ve got a completely hands-off approach when it comes to how money is allocated. This is federal funding, they need to step up and finally take some responsibility. This is the Prime Minister who said we’ll do whatever it takes. Well, what it’s going to take is intervention with the NSW Government to make sure that the remainder of the funding that’s coming is distributed fairly, and I think we need to see that the Blue Mountains gets its fair share. Everybody knows the impact of that fire – the Gospers Mountain fire – on the Blue Mountains economy. It’s obviously been compounded by COVID and there is absolutely no excuse to ignore the Blue Mountains in this funding.

JOURNALIST: What is your concern about the businesses who’ve been impacted? They’ve had almost a year now to try and recover [inaudible] … particularly given the impacts of COVID on tourism and the tapering off of JobKeeper and JobSeeker?

TEMPLEMAN: There’s real troubles coming, the businesses tell me. For businesses that are heavily reliant on international tourism, it has been compounded by the bushfires, an absolute killer year. Post-bushfires they were calling for support to attract international visitors because that just dried up, bookings completely dried up, then of course COVID hit. Now, they haven’t been able to pivot or adjust or replace it. Domestic tourism cannot replace the large numbers of international tourism that we get in the Blue Mountains, just like they do in Cairns. So, that’s why we’ve called on the government not to cut JobKeeper for those businesses that need it. It’s pretty obvious if a business needs it; if their turnover’s down, it’s because they are still struggling. What I’m hearing from local businesses in the Blue Mountains is they’ve been able to maintain staff, but they’ve had to cut hours. So instead of having full time staff, they’ve got staff on 15 hours a week. That doesn’t show up in the unemployment statistics, but it’s already putting pressure on families in the Blue Mountains. What they’re telling me is that after March 28, or as March 28 approaches and they see no support in sight, no continuation of JobKeeper, that the tourism industry and of course travel agents are going to have to make much tougher staff decisions, and they’re telling me that jobs will go. So, this is a community that doesn’t deserve to be messed around with bushfire funding.

JOURNALIST: And finally, those bushfires were of course impacted by climate change, it was a horror summer. The Morrison Government has now said it will look towards committing towards [inaudible] … Is that a strong enough response to climate change, given that we’re expecting more of these natural disasters in the future?  

TEMPLEMAN: All we’ve had from the Morrison Government is words. We need to see action. So, we can’t judge how strong something is or isn’t. But the track record tells you that this government is incredibly reluctant to take action on climate change.

It was clear to me in 2013 when my house burned down that the fire we saw was unusual, unexpected, it was exacerbated by drought, high winds, excessive, extreme weather. We saw that again in the Gospers Mountain fire 12 months ago. We’re seeing this more and more, so I don’t want to hear words from the Morrison Government, I want them to show me the money, put something out so we can see what action will be taken, and then we can make a judgement about whether it’s enough or not.