Those who lost their homes to the bushfires are still living in tents, without power and water. All seemingly abandoned by a government that has already shifted to the next crisis.
This morning I received the following email from my sister, Sarah, who lost her home in the Cobargo fires.
I’m speaking to ABC radio tomorrow about how bad the situation is down here. I haven’t looked but have you written anything about it?
Please will you write about how people are still living in tents? I heard a story about people with a disabled son, his wheelchair burnt and they are now paying to hire one. I hear of people who are still without power and water. I found another person who was renting and had been evicted because the landlord now needs to live in the house, she has three children and is caring for a disabled sister, they have nowhere to go. People who want to go home to their places in the bush can’t go there because the roads aren’t cleared. The organisations down here are giving priority to farmers and their fences and to businesses NOT the homeless.
This area is a place where Coronavirus would take off. We have no running water, no power, no toilets.
I saw on the tele (sic) tonight that the government has earmarked $2.4 billion to combat the Coronavirus. Surely the best thing to combat disease is to house people?
Please tell everyone,
P.S. I’m so pissed off!
At the height of the fires, after Prime Minister Scott Morrison was shamed into returning to Australia one day early from his Hawaiian holiday, the PM announced a $2 billion bushfire recovery fund, presumably to assist people like my sister and the people she speaks of in her email. So far, several months after the catastrophe, only 10% of that money has been allocated.
According to this ABC report, from March 2, the very existence of the recovery fund is questionable:
Labor Senator Murray Watt questioned whether the $2 billion fund actually existed after National Bushfire Recovery Agency deputy coordinator Abigail Bradshaw told the hearing the fund was “notional”.
“So, the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 6th of January, when he was under a lot of pressure, was that he had established a national bushfire recovery fund. But there is no fund, is there, it’s not anywhere within the budget statements?” Senator Watt asked.
So, is there or isn’t there a $2 billion bushfire relief fund? And if there is, why is it taking so long to distribute the funds to people in desperate situations? And if there isn’t, what the hell is the Coalition government playing at?
Winter in the Cobargo area is cold. Nobody wants to be living in a tent. Nobody wants to be without power, heating, and water. What do people struggling to survive the loss of everything actually have to do to see some of this $2 billion, to which they are absolutely entitled?
Morrison and his government have moved on to the COVID-19 crisis, which they no doubt see as an opportunity for them to repair the massive loss of confidence, and the credibility they so thoroughly trashed during the bushfire disaster. We can only hope that monies promised to deal with the pandemic actually exist and, unlike the bushfire fund, are appropriately dispersed in time to have some effect.
In the meantime, the Coalition must answer all the questions surrounding the national bushfire recovery fund, the most urgent being, does it even exist? Because there are people in Cobargo, and I suspect many other fire-affected towns and villages across the country, who are living in tents and see no immediate relief from hardship, despite Morrison’s promises.