Australia — Victims of the Blue Mountains’ worst bushfires in a decade are being let down by the Government, Labor claims today in a major attack on Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
The attack is a sign Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, currently on leave, plans an aggressive start to Parliament when it returns next week.
Acting Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek today said lack of Government action was hindering recovery and clean-up operations. These are the areas the Government had nominated as priorities.
Ms Plibersek said Prime Minister Abbott had refused to provide the same recovery strategy used to help victims of Victoria’s horror bushfires of 2009 and the Queensland cyclones.
Blue Mountains residents had been provided assistance if their homes were destroyed or badly damaged, but could not get the short-term help if they were cut off from their home or were without power for a significant period. That cash assistance had been provided in previous natural disasters.
Small business had not been offered promised cheap loans of up to $100,000, which Mr Abbott earlier this year said would go to companies not physically damaged by fire, but which had lost suppliers and customers.
The Federal Government has said it has been waiting for a request for the loans from the NSW government.
Ms Plibersek said the Primer Minister should “stop the buck passing and commit to a State/Federal government co-ordinated demolition and removal of all waste on all residential and business sites”.
Ms Plibersek Mr Abbott had to ensure Blue Mountains families received the same access to payments that people impacted by previous natural disasters had received.
“Recovery and clean-up is being hindered by a lack of action from the Government that simply does not understand the issues facing the community and businesses as a result of the most devastating bushfire seen in the Blue Mountains for decades,” she said.
“Fire-affected communities in the Blue Mountains are missing out because of the Abbott Government’s inaction – and this has gone on long enough.”
Shadow human services minister Doug Cameron, a Blue Mountains resident, said the federal Government and the NSW Government were taking a “penny-pinching approach to people’s lives”.
“I am appalled at the dithering and delays between the Abbott and O’Farrell Governments at a time when immediate assistance is required by the Blue Mountains community,” said Senator Cameron.
“I have consistently raised these issues with the State and Federal MPs and have received evasive and inept responses.”
Two weeks ago Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wrote to Mr Abbott asking if Blue Mountains fire victims would get the same attention as others caught by natural disasters. He has yet to receive a reply.