Questions Without Notice: Australian Bushfires

March 02, 2020


Ms TEMPLEMAN (Macquarie) (14:13): My question is to the Prime Minister. Why has the Prime Minister broken his promise of immediate support for bushfire affected communities, given that fewer than 20 per cent of applications for small business grants and fewer than five per cent of applications for small business loans have been approved?

Mr MORRISON (Cook—Prime Minister and Minister for the Public Service) (14:14): I thank the member for her question. Over $167 million has been paid to families and individuals in direct support in response to the bushfire crisis. There's been $145 million paid to more than 121,000 eligible individuals in disaster recovery payment and disaster recovery allowance, as at 1 March 2020. There's been $21.7 million in payments made for over 54,000 impacted children, as at 1 March. There's been $7.1 million paid to volunteer firefighters. There's been $47 million paid in primary producer grants, and some 767 grants have been approved. That includes 1,156 applications in New South Wales, with 605 approved worth $36.8 million.
I am also concerned about the progress of the small-business grants. Just over three weeks ago I invited the Leader of the Opposition to submit any proposals that he had as to how he thought that system should be changed. I haven't received that as yet but I would welcome any proposals. Just over a week ago I had the opportunity to talk to the state member for Bega. The state member for Bega has raised some important suggestions that can increase access to the small-business grants. Those issues were raised also with the minister responsible for emergency management and the head of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, Andrew Colvin. I met with Andrew Colvin and the minister last week. We are currently in the process of looking to rephase and revise how those grants are being constructed. We will be doing that to ensure that we're backing those businesses in that can see that they have a future where they are, going out not only over the next three months but over the next 12 months. That's what we're applying ourselves to do. The New South Wales government will be working in that state to deliver those arrangements. They've highlighted some issues, because they're the ones who are processing these applications. I look forward to us being able to deliver a better program. When the Leader of the Opposition would like to submit his proposals, as I invited him to do, I'd be happy to receive them.