This morning I was a guest of AM Agenda on Sky News. I joined Liberal Senator Mitch Fifield and television host Laura Jayes to discuss the morning’s headlines with subjects including disaster relief, climate change, a commonwealth commission of audit and asylum seekers.
Sky News AM Agenda with Laura Jayes
MONDAY 21 OCTOBER 2013
LAURA JAYES: Let’s go to our panel now and the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Mitch Fifield, and the new Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, congratulations to you. First Mitch Fifield, looking at this situation, can you tell us what kind of payments are available for bushfire victims; what kind of assistance they can expect from the government here?
MITCH FIFIELD: Sure. Well, the Australian Government Disaster Relief payments are in operation and that’s a thousand dollars to eligible adults and $400 for eligible kids. That’s being made available to people whose homes have been destroyed, whose homes have been damaged or who have sustained an injury. In parallel with that are joint commonwealth/state disaster arrangements which make provision for food, clothing, [and] accommodation. People who have queries, who want to know what’s available should get in contact with the Commonwealth Department of Human Services who are acting as the lead Commonwealth agency on the ground in those areas.
JAYES: I understand that the eligibility payments have been changed when it comes to federal assistance [for] from those who’ve had their home destroyed or severely damaged. To those who have been cut off or their electricity has been cut off from their homes, they’re no longer available, eligible for these payments. Is that correct?
FIFIELD: There’s a range of categories which can be activated for any emergency. The decision that the government has taken is to initially provide assistance to those who have been directly and immediately affected by way of [their] home being damaged or destroyed. As the situation develops the Government will continue to assess the situation.
JAYES: Andrew Leigh, this is a change from Labor policy. These payments still going to the most effected.
ANDREW LEIGH: They are going to the most affected Laura. But I would urge the Government on this case, be a little more generous to open up that payment category to people who’ve been unable to access their home in the previous 24 hours. The trauma that comes from being cut off from your home, I know that for many of these Blue Mountains residents, whether they’re living in evacuation centres at the moment and the challenges you face with kids. I think that’s an appropriate use of taxpayer funds. So, I hope that the government does change that decision there because I’m a little concerned by the reports I read in the paper today about challenges for families accessing payments.
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