Queensland’s ability to recover and rebuild after natural disasters is under threat after the Turnbull Government unilaterally delayed payment of around $1 billion in Natural Disaster Relief and Recover Arrangements payments in this week’s budget.
Inside this includes the drought relief schemes farmers suffering from serious drought conditions can apply for.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning Jackie Trad says the Turnbull Government was due to reimburse Queensland approximately $1 billion in funding in the coming weeks, but had now unilaterally postponed payment for up to two years.
“This outrageous delay for spurious reasons undermines confidence in the entire Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA), and could mean delays to reconstruction after future natural disaster events,” Ms Trad says.
“Rebuilding after a natural disaster in Australia is based on certainty of reimbursement from the Commonwealth, which enables Councils and state government authorities to start work immediately after a disaster event.
“The Turnbull Government has now turned this completely on its head, and this could lead to delays in reconstruction when disaster strikes, particularly if we end up in a situation where we need to get bureaucratic approvals from Canberra before works can start.”
Under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA), the Federal Government provides up to 75 per cent of the funding required to respond to and recover from a natural disaster.
“Our current disaster recovery claim was submitted ahead of schedule, and we were expecting to be paid the outstanding $1 billion in 2015-16, as was indicated in the Turnbull Government’s Federal Mid-Year Economic Financial Outlook published in December,” she says.
“It’s also important to note this claim was independently certified by the Queensland Audit Office prior to being lodged in accordance with Commonwealth rules.
“The money owed to Queensland was spent in good faith to help our state’s communities and their local economies recover in the wake of repeated natural disasters.
“To refuse to reimburse Queensland this year after the hardship our state has endured shows the Turnbull Government is not committed to Queensland or the welfare of our communities.”
Ms Trad also strongly rejected reports that Queensland had lodged “false claims” and said such statements were without foundation.
“The Federal Government seems to be relying on an Australian National Audit Office report from 12 months ago that looked at New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia – not Queensland,” she says.
“This report was highly critical of the Federal Government’s Emergency Management Australia for its performance in administering NDRRA, including its failure to undertake any assurance activities over state claims.
“Queensland has gone to great lengths to work collaboratively with EMA to clear its backlog of claims, however, despite reassurances from EMA that its assurance activities would not affect the timing of the state’s payment, the Commonwealth has now reneged and refused to pay the state $1 billion it is owed.”
Queensland is leading the nation as the only state with a stand-alone agency to deliver disaster recovery with a recognised, validated process to assure NDRRA expenditure and ensure value for money.
Since its establishment in 2011, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) has managed a program of NDRRA reconstruction works valued at more than $13 billion for natural disaster events, with its processes recognised internationally.