Disaster deja vu

Disaster deja vu  Main Image

14 March 2022

Australia is no stranger to natural disasters. For anyone who has grown up outside the major cities, extreme weather events are a part of life. But what we have seen with these devastating floods, and what we saw two years ago during the Black Summer Bushfires, is that these disasters are intensifying and causing more damage than ever.

My heart goes out to everyone affected by these floods, to those who’ve lost loved ones, to those who’ve lost their homes, their possessions, their livelihoods.

With the waters receding and clean up starting, what comes next for these communities is a long, tough road to recovery.

Sadly, this long and gruelling recovery is a journey those in my communities know too well. We are still living and breathing it more than two years later.

Throughout Australia’s modern history, we have been proud of our capacity to respond to disasters and endure adversity.

It’s during these times of crisis that we see acts of courage, selflessness and human fellowship. We are seeing it play out writ large across Northern NSW and Queensland right now.

Just like with the fires, across the country people are holding fundraisers and donation drives to support these communities and to provide people with the bare essentials to get through the next couple of days, weeks and months.

I am not surprised the community response has been the same for the floods as it was for the bushfires. This is what Australians do. They support each other, they rally together when people are in need, and they help people get back on their feet.

What I am completely gobsmacked by is the Morrison Government’s response. How can it be that no lessons have been learnt by this government more than two years and countless reviews later?

Just like during the fires, our Prime Minister has been missing in action, communities have been left to fend for themselves and the government support has been too little too late.

For people in my communities, it feels like deja vu. I’ve spoken to people across Eden-Monaro and received countless messages from bushfire survivors who all say the same thing – why hasn’t the government done more?

Why haven’t we learnt from the past? Why didn’t the government invest in disaster preparation projects? And why are communities feeling that same sense of abandonment that was felt two years ago?

It is a complete slap in the face and the anger is palpable.

As a nation we should be world leaders is disaster recovery, preparedness and mitigation. We should be setting the standard. But this isn’t the case and it needs to change.

We know there are going to be more severe climate events in the future. To limit the impact of these disasters and to keep people safe we must anticipate, adapt, and invest in mitigation.

This requires federal investment and planning – as well as, crucially, a government that is committed to learning from past mistakes.

We need leadership from the top. We need a Prime Minister that will show up and we need our National Recovery and Resilience Agency to be led by someone who actually wants to help.

We're now in our third disaster season since the $4.8 billion dollar Emergency Response Fund was created. But not a cent has been spent on disaster recovery and not a single disaster readiness project has been built.

Shane Stone runs the Government’s $4.8 billion Emergency Response Fund and he has failed to build a single flood mitigation project with it. He has failed to help Eden-Monaro communities who are desperate to ensure they are better prepared for next time. And now he has turned around and blamed flood victims for the hardship they are facing.

We currently have a Prime Minister who ‘doesn’t hold a hose’ and the leader of the agency responsible for supporting those affected by disasters has shown a complete disregard for flood victims.

It’s no wonder that communities feel abandoned.

Australians deserve to be backed by a government that looks forward, plans and prevents the worst from natural disasters.

An Albanese Labor Government will revamp the failed Emergency Response Fund and create a new Disaster Ready Fund.

Up to $200 million per year will be invested on disaster readiness to protect lives and livelihoods.

We can’t stop all natural disasters – but we can prepare for and prevent the worst. We can learn from the past, invest in mitigation projects and ensure we are ready for what’s to come.  

We can’t keep doing the same old thing and expecting a different result. Something has to change and Scott Morrison has proved he has no desire to lead this change.