April 29, 2022

Government must fix bushfire recovery stuff up

Helen Haines has called on the Government to commit funding to four community projects that missed out on bushfire recovery funding, after it was revealed the Government has delivered funding for just one of five projects it originally overlooked in a recent grant program.

After the successful recipients of the Black Summer Bushfire Grants were announced in March, the Independent Federal Member for Indi revealed that a raft of community projects had been incorrectly ruled ineligible because of a bureaucratic stuff-up by the Commonwealth Government.

In assessing the grants, the Government incorrectly determined that volunteer-run committees of management were State Government entities, because they use a Victorian Government ABN, despite being entirely community-based organisations.

A suite of projects across Victoria was rejected for funding as a result, including the Tintaldra Recreation Reserve, which was in the heart of the fires, as well as several projects in Gippsland.

Haines wrote to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce seeking rectification of the mistake. To date, no response has been received.

Members of the Tintaldra community have also been waiting six weeks for a resolution after making a formal complaint about the bungle.

It has now emerged that the Deputy Prime Minister has singled out just one project, the Biggara Recreation Reserve, to receive funding, whilst continuing to exclude others in a similar position.

“It is fantastic to see that Barnaby Joyce has fixed his mistake on Biggara. But he’s done nothing to fix his mistakes for Tintaldra, Tallangatta, Tallandoon or Yackandandah,” Haines said.

“This continues to compound the insult to bushfire-affected communities. The Government stuffed up. And now they’re stuffing up their attempt to fix the first stuff up.”

Dr Haines called on the Government to commit to funding all the projects that were incorrectly excluded from the Black Summer grants.

“It’s pretty clear what they need to do – give these communities the respect of owning up to your mistakes and fixing the problem. They could do that by committing to funding these projects today.”

Haines said the Government’s continued bungling of this round of bushfire grants showed the value of having an Independent voice in Parliament.

“When the Government gets things right, I back them in. But when they stuff up, I have the freedom to call them out and get things fixed. Our community doesn’t want a rubber stamp, an MP who will just blindly defend whatever mistakes the Government makes, they want a champion.”

“Indi has secured $120 million for the bushfire recovery so far, and I’m proud to have gone into bat for every dollar. But the bushfire recovery is not over.”

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