Albanese blasts 'bureaucratic' fire fund

Albanese blasts 'bureaucratic' fire fund

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Labor's Anthony Albanese. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Labor's Anthony Albanese. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

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Labor leader Anthony Albanese has lashed the Morrison government's $2 billion bushfire recovery fund as overly bureaucratic and poorly targeted.

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Labor leader Anthony Albanese has lashed the Morrison government's $2 billion bushfire recovery fund as overly bureaucratic and poorly targeted.

Just 291,000 of the 7.1 million people who live in local government areas impacted directly or indirectly by the 2019-20 bushfires have received disaster recovery payments, National Bushfire Recovery Agency deputy coordinator Major General Andrew Hocking told a senate inquiry last week.

A separate senate inquiry earlier heard just 21,405 of the 640,000 businesses in bushfire-affected areas have received a grant or concessional loan from the Commonwealth.

The state and Commonwealth disaster recovery payments will be reviewed, amid concerns some areas have unfairly missed out.

While Mr Albanese welcomed the multi-billion dollar bushfire recovery fund when it was announced in January, six months on the support program increasingly appeared "poorly targeted", with survivors struggling to access funds.

"The rhetoric hasn't matched up with the reality on the ground," Mr Albanese said.

"Scott Morrison said when he made announcements of funding way back in January, that the funding would flow immediately and we know that isn't the case. It's now June and only 4 per cent of residents in the bushfire affected areas have received any support at all.

"When I've been on the ground, individuals will tell you and businesses will tell you they simply haven't been able to navigate the bureaucracy and the government has failed to have people there directly coordinating the process."

Mr Albanese spoke to one Batemans Bay restaurant owner who was a former chartered accountant but was still struggling with the paperwork.

"He was told after he'd spent all this time filling in a 17-page form that it was the wrong application process," Mr Albanese said.

"The chicken farm we went to last week in Quaama told us that they had engaged someone outside to try to get their support and that shouldn't be necessary, there should be a government contact who is able to coordinate all of that activity for individuals and for businesses."

Councils were also struggling with the cost of the clean-up, Mr Albanese said.

Mr Albanese said recent expansions to the eligibility for bushfire recovery grants and increased support for aerial firefighting only came after the Eden-Monaro byelection was called.

"It shouldn't have taken a byelection to get that response given that the business case [for the aerial firefighting expansion] was completed two years ago," Mr Albanese said.

Mr Albanese's comments came ahead of National Bushfire Recovery Agency coordinator Andrew Colvin's appearance at the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements on Thursday.

Services Australia's deputy chief executive officer Michelle Lees is also due to appear.

The story Albanese blasts 'bureaucratic' fire fund first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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