Greens call for permanent disaster fundBy chief political correspondent Simon Cullen, Tuesday January 29, 2013 - 16:24 EDT
Greens leader Christine Milne is urging the Government to establish a permanent disaster recovery fund, arguing that extreme weather events will become more frequent because of climate change.
Recent bushfires across several states and severe flooding in Queensland and New South Wales have caused extensive damage to homes and buildings as well as road infrastructure.
Treasurer Wayne Swan says it is too early to calculate the cost of dealing with the latest natural disasters because authorities are still dealing with the emergency situation facing several communities.
Queensland Premier Campbell Newman yesterday suggested a flood levy, similar to the one introduced after the 2011 floods, may need to be considered.
But Senator Milne is pushing for a more long-term solution.
"In a world that is increasingly warming, we are going to see more extreme events and that means we can't keep suggesting that this is a one-off response that is needed every time," she told reporters in Canberra.
"What we need is not another one-off flood levy this year, but what we do need is a permanent fund established in Australia to assist communities to deal with the consequences of loss of infrastructure."
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says the Coalition's "instincts" towards a flood levy are the same as they were in 2011, when it fought against the one-off charge.
"I would make the general point that Australia is a land of droughts and flooding rains, and the ordinary business of government should include being able to cope with the sorts of natural disasters which we regularly experience in this country," he told reporters in Melbourne.
The Federal Government has deployed defence personnel, helicopters and cargo planes to flood affected areas in Queensland to help with the crisis.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has promised they will remain available as long as they are needed.
Disaster recovery payments are also available to people living in dozens of council areas, which includes immediate cash assistance and funding for household items.
When asked yesterday whether the Commonwealth may need to reintroduce the flood levy, Mr Swan said it was "far too early" to be talking about the issue.
"We're in the emergency phase right now where we have to absolutely concentrate on saving lives and on saving property," he said.
"We have processes which we will put in place which will deal with the recovery phase.
"I could talk a lot if you like about the impact of extreme weather events, how they've become more frequent and what that may mean for the future of public policy, but today or tomorrow isn't the time for that discussion."
© ABC 2013
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Parts of far northwestern New South Wales have been scorching in temperatures in the mid forties, as much as 10 degrees above average.