Letter to the Editor of The Morning Bulletin submitted 08/10/2015
Thank you for your recent stories about how The Morning Bulletin is there when it matters. I lived in Koongal at the time of the bushfires and it was a harrowing and terrifying time. I do believe so many of us take for granted the essential services we rely on and one of these essential services is the news and I am very grateful to have a local newspaper in my town reporting on local issues and thank all the journalists, photographers and staff for their hard work.
As we are now in bushfire season, I would like to bring to your attention a critical gap in essential services in our community. The essential service I am speaking of brings reassurance and stability to those in a time of crisis. This essential service is disaster relief.
During cyclone Yasi, the people of Townsville qualified for Federal Government disaster assistance under the Labor Party. This is $1000 per adult and $400 for each child. During the fires in the Blue Mountains, whilst people’s homes were burning; the Abbott Government changed the criteria, so only those who had suffered significant damage to their homes or had injury or death, as a result were eligible. Hence the confusion about payments with Cyclone Marcia.
“Eligibility for payments, available in disasters such as the Tasmanian fires, changed on October 18, 2013 so residents who did not lose their homes but had to relocate for days at a time would not receive assistance.” (Excerpt NSW bushfire victims denied compensation under new rules, SMH 26/10/2013). To reiterate, the Federal Liberal National Government cut this disaster relief as bushfires tore through the Blue Mountains.
The Liberal National Federal Government removed the last three criteria for disaster relief, which applied under a Federal Labor Government. The criteria the Liberal National Federal Government removed were:
- You have been unable to access your place of residence for a period of at least 24 hours
- You have been stranded in your principal place of residence for a period of at least 24 hours
- Your principal place of residence was without a particular utility service (electricity, gas, water, sewerage services or another essential service) for a continuous period of 48 hours.
The changes to the eligibility criteria have a huge impact on who is eligible for disaster relief funding.
The Turnbull Government says it is a more compassionate and understanding Government. I strongly believe that our community, which is prone to bushfires and floods, should have the security of decent disaster relief funding and the abolished criteria reinstated immediately, before the next disaster hits.