Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backtracked on his decision not to fund half of the Queensland state government’s $741 million (US$551 million) scheme to buy back and make properties more resilient to flooding after the recent natural disaster.
“The request the Queensland government has made goes well beyond any other requests for floods of this nature in the past. They are things that are the state government’s responsibility,” Morrison told 4BC on April 7.
The Coalition prime minister accused the state Labor government of politicising the natural disasters that impacted southeast Queensland, with the start of the federal election campaign imminent.
“I just want to make sure people are getting the support that they need,” Morrison said after confirming that the federal government would split the cost of Queensland’s request with conditions.
One of the conditions is that the Queensland government be transparent about how it uses the money, with Morrison accusing the state of sitting on $52 million the federal government provided for disaster support over the last three years.
“It’s just sitting in their bank account. They haven’t even spent it,” he said, adding that this contributed to his cautiousness in agreeing to the state Labor government’s request on the eve of an election.
“There has to be greater transparency about this,” he said. “We don’t want to have politicking over the support that is provided in time of natural disaster.”
Morrison emphasised that his government had already paid out more money to support Queenslanders impacted by the floods than the state government had committed.
“I want them to be transparent with the payments that are being made; I want them to report to the public,” he said, noting that while he could name an exact figure the federal government had paid out, he couldn’t say how much Queensland had paid out because they don’t disclose it.
Queensland’s Acting Premier Cameron Dick welcomed Morrison’s backtrack.
“I’m finally pleased that the Prime Minister will do the right thing by Queensland. He will look after these families,” he said.
“And we can help people stop reliving this nightmare when their homes get flooded over and over again. So this is a good move forward.”
Speaking from Goodna, one of the hardest-hit areas in Brisbane, Dick told reporters the federal government’s money would be put to use by Queensland Reconstruction Authority to help the local community.
Some of the ways the funds will be used will be to make properties more resilient to flooding by either raising them above flood levels or renovating them with more resistant materials, Dick said. Others may wish to relocate, he added.
“There will be hundreds of people that will be assisted by this. And that’s the right thing to do to support them. There’s never been a package like this put together in Australian history,” Dick said.