Topics:  australian government, bill shorten, climate change, environment, flooding, janelle saffin

Saffin claims climate change signals need for disaster funds

Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin.
Federal Member for Page Janelle Saffin. Cathy Adams

THE Federal Government should consider quarantining a "decent pool" of national emergency management funding to spend on flood mitigation, Janelle Saffin says.

It was one of a number of ideas and issues the Member for Page raised in a letter to Financial Services Minister Bill Shorten last week.

Ms Saffin wrote that a more pro-active approach to dealing with the "reality" of climate change needed to be explored, particularly in parts of regional Australia where floods, bushfires and cyclones have wreaked havoc.

She suggested some of federal and state money spent on helping people and communities clean up after floods might be better spent on mitigation.

An anomaly in the system meant some people in need of financial assistance sometimes missed out because they did not meet strict eligibility criteria, she wrote.

"One way of overcoming this, and of making the entire system more cost effective, could be to quarantine a decent pool of national emergency management funding to upgrade and strengthen older flood levees, build new ones or to raise or relocate homes out of flood," Ms Saffin wrote.

"State governments could make contributions to flood mitigation infrastructure, leveraging off a national fund, as required, and have local government factored in as well."

Liberal Senator Gary Humphries flagged a similar idea last week when asked how a Coalition government would approach the problem.

Ms Saffin praised Queensland Nationals MP Paul Neville, whose seat of Hinkler takes in flood-ravaged Bundaberg, for a recent speech he gave in the Parliament calling for a bipartisan commitment to flood mitigation.

She also called on Mr Shorten to continue working with the Insurance Council of Australia on a range of issues.

"I am aware you have advanced options and that these are under consideration with the ICA," she wrote.

She wrote the ICA needed to "deal fairly" with people in flood-prone areas and not price them out of the market.

A spokeswoman for Mr Shorten confirmed the minister had been in talks with the ICA in the wake of the recent flooding, but would not reveal details of those discussions.

She said Mr Shorten was "optimistic that real solutions to improve community resilience and disaster mitigation are achievable".

"The government is exploring innovative ways to better support as many communities as possible," the spokeswoman said.

"Communities, governments of all levels and the insurance industry should work together on enhancing the resilience of communities against the impact of natural disasters, including through flood mitigation measures.

"As the minister responsible for insurance, Minister Shorten is in regular consultation with the Insurance Council of Australia, this includes recent consultations regarding the insurance industry's response to the most recent disasters (floods and bushfires)."

The spokeswoman would not say whether Mr Shorten was planning to take up Ms Saffin's formal invitation to visit the Clarence Valley to speak to people affected by the January flood.



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