Labor announces plan to boost natural disaster prevention

A federal Labor government would spend $200 million a year to improve disaster preparation in areas like the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury.

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese announced Labor's Disaster Ready Fund on January 11, stating it would invest in projects such as evacuation centres, fire breaks, and telecommunications improvements.

The announcement of a dedicated mitigation fund was welcomed by IAG, the largest insurer in Australia.

"Over many years we've highlighted the importance of greater investment in mitigation initiatives to help protect communities before disasters strike and we welcome Labor's commitment to establish a fund dedicated to help achieve this," said IAG managing director and CEO, Nick Hawkins.

Federal Member for Macquarie Susan Templeman said people living in bushfire and flood-prone areas like the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury "deserve to be protected by a federal government who plans ahead and invests to keep them safe".

The Labor MP said the Morrison Government had failed to improve resilience from bushfires and floods.

"The Morrison Government continues to sit on a $4.7 billion Emergency Response Fund (ERF) that, three years after it was announced, has not spent a cent on disaster recovery and has not completed a single disaster prevention project," she said

"The only thing it has done is earn the government more than $750 million in investment returns.

"Labor will revamp the failed ERF so that it spends up to $200 million per year for disaster prevention and resilience."

But Liberal Senator Marise Payne hit back strongly at the announcement, accusing Ms Templeman of "shamelessly playing politics with bushfire recovery".

"In October last year, Ms Templeman suggested the government had not invested in Indigenous fire management practices, when in fact the Dharug Ngurra Aboriginal Corporation has received over $160,000 in federal funding to work with the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to undertake cultural burning workshops at Yellomundee Regional Park," she said.

The foreign minister said the federal government had provided more than $12 billion to the states and territories through disaster recovery funding arrangements over the last decade.

Ms Templeman rejected the attack, which she characterised as government "spin".

"If the foreign minister thinks that the Morrison Government has delivered any significant disaster mitigation in the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury last two years she's deluding herself... I'll leave the Liberals to spin - I'm more interested in rolling up my sleeves and simply fighting to get what our community needs," she said.

"I fought long and hard to make sure that federal repair and recovery funding would flow through to my region, but even now we are still waiting on the government to reveal who will be the winners in the disaster preparedness fund, two years after the fires and, funnily enough, in time for an election."

Ms Templeman said she has taken a bipartisan approach to disasters in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury, and Senator Payne knew this.

"I'll never apologise for wanting to do more to protect my community from natural disasters that we face with increasing frequency," she said.

Under Labor's plan, funding would be matched by state or local governments, providing up to $400 million annually for investment in disaster prevention and resilience.

This story Labor announces plan to boost natural disaster prevention first appeared on Blue Mountains Gazette.