Crossbench MPs call on COVID-19 Committee to investigate impact on bushfire regions

Crossbench MPs call on COVID-19 Committee to investigate impact on bushfire regions

Crossbench MPs representing bushfire ravaged electorates have called on the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Select Committee to investigate the extra impact the pandemic is having on fire-affected communities.

Centre Alliance Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie from SA and Independent Member for Indi Helen Haines from Victoria have written to Committee Chair Senator Katy Gallagher asking the Senate Committee to hold special public hearings on the Government response in communities hit hardest by the 2019/2020 fires.

The hearings would call on witnesses from State and Federal departments and agencies, including the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, plus other groups and community representatives who can give a detailed picture of the delivery of relief and recovery efforts and the impact the COVID-19 restrictions and support packages have had on bushfire communities.

“The COVID-19 restrictions, while absolutely necessary from a public health perspective, have delivered a double economic and psychological blow to communities in my electorate and other bushfire-affected areas and all of this has occurred in a matter of months,” Rebekha said today.

“Tourism operators in the Adelaide Hills and the Kangaroo Island were decimated by the fires and went from desperately calling for people to come and visit in order to help out to the Government ordering Australians to stay home and stay away.

“Meanwhile, with all the public attention focussed on the COVID-19 response, our communities are telling us that the promised bushfire recovery support is not reaching the individuals, businesses and primary producers who need it in a timely manner.

“Helen and I are deeply concerned that the administration of recovery efforts has not fully taken into account the compounding impact of COVID-19.

“Given the irregular Parliamentary schedule, we believe it is essential that special attention be given to bushfire affected communities.”

Dr Helen Haines said: “We’re lacking complete and accurate data about the number of applications and range of grants being delivered to businesses through the government’s bushfire support packages. Our communities deserve to know the extent of this public funding and that it is hitting the ground where it’s needed.”