Aus oppn leader slams ‘failed’ bushfire recovery fund

Canberra, June 4 (IANS) Australian opposition leader Anthony Albanese on Thursday slammed the government's “failed” bushfire recovery fund as ineffective.

Albanese, the leader of the oppositon Labor Party, described the A$2 billion ($1.3 billion) National Bushfire Recovery Fund as “poorly targeted” after it was learned that only 4 per cent of the residents in areas hit by the fires have received recovery payments, reports Xinhua news agency.

The fund, welcomed by Albanese at the time, was announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison in January to help rebuild communities and livelihoods in the wake of fires that devastated much of the country.

Andrew Hocking, the deputy coordinator of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, told a Senate inquiry into the bushfires on Tuesday that only 291,000 of the 7.1 million people living in affected areas have received disaster recovery payments.

It comes after a separate inquiry heard in May that 21,405 out of 640,000 businesses in those areas have received a grant or loan from the government.

“The rhetoric hasn't matched up with the reality on the ground,” Albanese told Nine Entertainment newspapers on Thursday.

“Scott Morrison said when he made announcements of funding way back in January, that the funding would flow immediately and we know that isn't the case,” he said.

“When I've been on the ground, individuals will tell you and businesses will tell you they simply haven't been able to navigate the bureaucracy and the government has failed to have people there directly coordinating the process.”

Albanese said he has toured areas hit hardest by the bushfires where he heard the frustrations of residents and business owners with the recovery fund process.

The 2019-20 Australian bushfires left 33 people dead, over 3,000 homes destroyed as well as widespread devastation of local wildlife and habitat.



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