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Smokescreen: the rhetoric and reality of federal bushfire recovery funding

Community recovery Disaster relief Emergency funding Bushfires Government accountability Government expenditure Disasters Australia

This report examines the allocation and distribution of federal funds from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2020, following the bushfire crisis of 2019-2020. While large pledges were made to support families and businesses, much of the funding appears to be unspent, or seems to have been allocated based on political motivation rather than need.

There is a significant lack of transparency surrounding application procedures and how funds are allocated, and poor reporting mechanisms which make it hard to know how much has been spent, how many people are still in financial need, and in what timeframe they can expect to be supported.

This report uncovers a lack of impartiality over how application information has been distributed and how funds were allocated, and that there is no way for the public to be sure of this due to a lack of transparency over federal and state processes and data. Furthermore, we find that the federal government has explained neither the criteria for the merits of individual LERCP projects in their own right (cost, jobs created, economic impact, etc.) nor the criteria for distributing funds equitably to the communities most in need.

Key recommendations:

  • An independent review of systems for monitoring contractors and third-party financial recipients, with recommendations acted on.
  • Ensure the application process and criteria used to assess the appropriate allocation of funds under all disaster relief and bushfire recovery programs are publicly available and easily accessible by affected communities.
  • Account for the distribution of all federal funding, regardless of the ultimate means of distribution to communities, in full via the Senate Estimates process.
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