Australia — Funds donated to bushfire victims should not be used by the Victorian government, the Nationals say.
Victorian Nationals leader Peter Ryan says a $9 million relief package for local councils affected by the Black Saturday bushfires is a good idea but should be funded by the state government, not the Bushfire Recovery Fund.
More than $285 million has been donated to the fund, which is run by a special committee set up in the aftermath of the fires.
On Thursday, Premier John Brumby announced the package for councils in parliament and sent out a release on government letterhead.
It will provide assistance with running disaster emergency services, clearing rubbish and trees and providing further grief and trauma counselling.
Mr Ryan said he welcomed the moves, but they should have been funded by the state government
“The tens of thousands of donors to the fund intended the bushfire victims to be the direct beneficiaries of their generosity and they did not give their money to Premier Brumby, the government, local government or the state Treasury,” Mr Ryan told reporters.
“The support programs are in the nature of those routinely provided by the government in times of need.”
Mr Ryan also questioned the government publicising the program on its own letterhead.
“It is causing confusion in the public eye. This $9 million is not taxpayers’ money,” he said.
“There should be a clear separation between the Bushfire Relief Fund and the government.”
Mr Brumby said he had not heard Mr Ryan’s comments.
“I think the fund has been very generously supported and has a lot of representation from local government that they need support and I think it’s entirely appropriate that they receive that support,” Mr Brumby told reporters.
“I’m surprised to hear that criticism, very surprised.
“I’d be very disappointed if anybody was criticising funds that are going to help bushfire victims, as the leader of the National party appears to have done.”
Mr Brumby insisted the fund had already made the announcement before he proclaimed it in parliament on Thursday.