Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Victorian Bushfires – 2UE Drive

Program: Radio 2UE - Drive

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

Subject: Bushfires

JOHN STANLEY: Minister, good afternoon to you.


JOHN STANLEY: I know you have been to the area yourself and you’ve no doubt spoken to many of the people there. It has touched everyone in Parliament on both sides hasn’t it?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well actually I’m still in Melbourne because I’ve been working on the detail of this Bushfire Reconstruction and Recovery Authority that you’ve just spoken about. As you’ve mentioned the Prime Minister and I spent the last couple of days in many of the Recovery Centres speaking with hundreds of people that have been affected. It is really just incomprehensible what these people have been through.

JOHN STANLEY: What are the concerns the people raised? They hear amounts like $5 million or $10 million and it doesn’t sound for instance as much as the $27 plus that’s been raised just at the cricket today, we’re talking about $12 million plus in the Salvation Army Appeal. From what the Prime Minister said today I think the financial assistance (inaudible) in terms of whatever is needed?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, absolutely. And I think the important thing is to bring it down to numbers that are critical for the individuals who need money right now. People are getting that cash from Centrelink. Some people are in fact receiving cash because of course they don’t have any access to their bank accounts. But Centrelink have been terrific just getting that money into people’s hands. These people just have no money to buy basics like toiletries, or clothes, and so I am pleased that that money is now flowing.

JOHN STANLEY: And how’s that set up because presumably there’s not a Centrelink office in every one of these towns. There’ve got people going around doing that have they?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, there are actually people located in the Relief Centres now. They were there yesterday when the Prime Minister and I went to a number of them. They are working hard, really just getting the money into people’s hands, but of course the wonderful thing is that so many of these communities have donated huge numbers of teams. Down in Wallan in the north, just outside Melbourne, it’s massive basketball stadium just full of clothes and bedding and toiletries, food being packaged together by the community, all donated by local stores and also local people.

JOHN STANLEY: The amounts of money. What’s the detail of those payments? What do people get if they need those basics or they’ve lost everything and they’ve got no where to go?

JENNY MACKLIN: There’s a $1,000 for each adult and $400 for each child and then on top of that there are emergency hardship grants, so that’s an extra $427 an adult and another $200 per child. There’s temporary living and re-establishment grants and that can be up to $8,500. On the very sad side John, there’s also money for funerals and the horrifying situation people have (inaudible) terrible number of deaths.

JOHN STANLEY: We don’t think that through do we, but obviously there is that cost as well.

JENNY MACKLIN: There is, so there is up to $5,000 for funeral support. We’re putting together a Farming and Small Business Fund. One of the things that’s really hit the Prime Minister and I when we’ve been out is just how many people have of course have lost their business, they’ve lost their home and they operated from home or if they’re farmers it’s going to take a long time to recover. So we’ll sit down with the Victorian Government and (inaudible) business too, it really works out true both capital grants and some ongoing support as well.

JOHN STANLEY: The amount of money that’s put in by Governments will be the most money and it will be very significant amounts of money. How do you interact though with the amounts that have been raised, the Salvation Army Appeal, the Red Cross Appeal, the money raised at the Cricket, the Telethon tomorrow night? How will that interact and how will the new Authority deal with the various charities as they try to provide assistance?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, if I can just say first of all how just fantastic it is to see so many individuals and the companies, organisations putting money in really does sum up the sort of place we live in doesn’t it, but the Governments, both Governments, the Victorian Government and the Federal Government have committed money to this fund. $5million each have gone into a Recovery Fund and they’ve also, both the Governments have put money into the Red Cross Fund as well. That money will be distributed from in part by of the course the Red Cross themselves to people who need it. As the Prime Minister set out today, we’ve allocated another $5million for emergency relief but this is really small amounts of money to be given out by organisations like Anglicare, or the Salvation Army, St Vincent’s de Paul to really help people who just have nothing to buy food or other essential supplies, so this is some of the emergency things that are happening.

JOHN STANLEY: And the insurance companies are involved and they’re on the ground there and have been for a couple of days. Are people who were insured, are you satisfied that they are going to be flexible in way they deal with people who’ve got claims and that they’ll be treating those claims as a matter or urgency, getting it done as quickly as possible?

JENNY MACKLIN: We certainly expect they will and I know that they are now in some of the Relief Centres. They weren’t yesterday but I’ve been told that they are today. That is very important, and it is also important, of course I know they do understand this, but for people to be reassured where that all of their insurance papers have been burnt, so it’s a very difficult issue.

JOHN STANLEY: Have you been able to establish that for a proportion of people then it might be either underinsured or not insured at all?

JENNY MACKLIN: No, we don’t know exactly yet because of course those issues are just emerging. Really what people have been focussing on is just making sure people are safe, helping people with the basics – clothes, toiletries, accommodation, making sure that they get some information about what might be happening in the communities they’re from. (Inaudible) but I do know that in some of the places we now have insurance companies and that work is beginning.

JOHN STANLEY: (Inaudible) anywhere from $500,000 up to $2billion in terms of the insurance payouts to rebuild that area of Victoria, so with figure of dollars earmarked to go in for the construction of housing to try and stimulate the construction industry, have you had much discussion with the Prime Minister and senior economic Ministers about how that might interact with the assistance package, and how you might perhaps fold your stimulus package into this so you still get the same effect, and perhaps help these people more quickly?

JENNY MACKLIN: Yes, we talked in detail about that today, and as you know in our stimulus package we have money for social housing and for schools. So there have been a small number of schools that have been burnt down in some of these communities, and what we’ve said today is that as part of our stimulus package the Victorian Government will of course be able to give priority to the construction of these schools in those communities that have been affected by the fire, and the same goes with our social housing fund. So that’s just one way (inaudible) …..

JOHN STANLEY: Okay, and just finally, if there’s going to be a problem I know part of (inaudible) construction industry you could roll that money pouring in for building schools and housing in Victoria, and then you’ve got this whole area that’s got to be rebuilt, you might even have too much for the workers down there, is that a possibility?

JENNY MACKLIN: This whole issue of making sure we’ve got very clear supply lines is also now on our agenda , we understand that at the moment of course the focus in the communities where the devastation has been intense, the police have to be allowed to get on with their job first, and that’s the number one priority for the police and for the Coroner, but once they have done their job then of course getting the supplies, getting the workforce in to help people rebuild, really it’s an absolute desire by the individuals who want to get back but also by the Government who wants to help. We really want to help people rebuild.

JOHN STANLEY: And it’s got to be done as quickly as possible. Jenny Macklin, I thank you for your time.

JENNY MACKLIN: My pleasure.

JOHN STANLEY: Jenny Macklin, well she’s the Family and Community Services Minister also going to be on that Reconstruction Taskforce. She’s been down in Melbourne and my apologies for that because Parliament has been sitting today but she’s been down there in Melbourne working on this over the last couple of days. Let’s be reminded also there will be a very substantial cost rebuilding those houses in those communities but a large part of that will be borne by insurance companies. People are insured and I saw today the cost, and it could get high as $2billion insurance payouts to this area to rebuild those homes.