Labor promises disaster-ready funding

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  • Anthony Albanese
    Australian politician

A federal Labor government would spend $200 million a year on natural disaster prevention and readiness.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has promised a Disaster Ready Fund will be established to finance disaster prevention projects such as flood levees, evacuation shelters, fire breaks and improving telecommunications.

Annual disaster prevention funding would be matched by state, territory and local governments under the proposal to be established within Labor's first year in government.

The Australian Local Government Association says an annual $200 million investment in disaster mitigation would create up to 1833 new jobs and add $280 million to Australia's economy.

President Linda Scott said local governments typically had to foot the bill when it came to disaster relief, recovery and management, and more support was welcome.

The opposition also promised to cut red tape to ensure funding can be delivered more quickly, along with speeding up payments to disaster victims.

"You shouldn't need a degree in bureaucracy to be able to make a claim and to get compensated," Mr Albanese said.

Under the plan, Labor would also overhaul the government's emergency response fund which was set up by the government in late 2019 during the Black Summer bushfires.

Mr Albanese criticised the government for not spending some of the $4 billion fund on resilience projects.

"Three years after it was announced, the emergency response fund has not spent a cent on disaster recovery and has not completed a single disaster prevention project," he said.

"The only thing it has done is earn the government over $750 million in investment returns."

Labor's changes to the fund would see $200 million spent every year on disaster preparation initiatives.

Labor has also pledged to help with insurance premiums, which are increasing in regions more prone to events like bushfires and floods.

"These projects and this fund will save lives, will improve communities' resilience, will improve economic activity and will produce much better outcomes, including lower insurance premiums," Mr Albanese told reporters in Mackay on Wednesday.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific campaigner Martin Zavan welcomed the announcement but said governments should focus on reducing the reliance on fossil fuels, which causes climate change and related disasters.

"The real preventative measure we need is to address the root cause of disasters by rapidly transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy like wind, solar and batteries," he said.

But Mr Albanese said the damage done by climate change was already impacting people.

"This is about real people in real communities. Real lives, real homes, and real impacts on people and I make no apologies for the fact that we need to deal with that," he said.

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