Hundreds of millions of dollars in bushfire donations still aren't reaching communities in need. Image by Sean Davey/AAP PHOTOS

Infrastructure

PM bristles at ‘confined’ climate debate

2020-02-07 12:35:06

Scott Morrison has confirmed a national bushfire royal commission will look at the impacts of climate change.

But the prime minister insists he will not allow a “confined, narrow” debate focused on carbon emissions.

“The royal commission needs to look at the preparedness and resilience in relation to these bushfire events,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

“We need to have a discussion not just about emissions reduction, which happens in the broad.

“But if you’re talking about climate resilience, then hazard reduction is as important, if not more, for the direct safety of people affected by these fires than emissions reduction.”

Mr Morrison stressed the importance of longer-term adaptation measures to deal with hotter, longer and drier summers.

“I’m not going to allow a confined, narrow debate when it comes to understanding what it means to live in the climate we’re going to live in,” he told reporters.

The prime minister has written to the states to ask for their feedback on what a royal commission into the bushfire crisis should look into.

The inquiry is expected to look at whether the commonwealth should be given greater powers to respond to natural disasters, without taking its cues from the states.

Land clearing and native vegetation laws would also be examined.

Mr Morrison wants the royal commission wrapped up by August so his government can act on the recommendations before the next bushfire season.

In the meantime, the prime minister is concerned hundreds of millions of dollars in bushfire donations are not reaching communities in need.

Five weeks after a fireball tore through large parts of Victoria and NSW, many towns are yet to see a cent of donations given to non-government organisations.

“I think it’s very important that charities and state governments for that matter are reporting on how much money is going out the door and to where,” he told 2GB radio.

The prime minister said $111 million in federal government funding had been paid out to bushfire victims.

But Labor MP Susan Templeman, whose seat takes in the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury in NSW, said that money was not getting through to many people in her electorate.

“They have been fire-affected for up to three months yet they are being told that the big headline promises are not going to roll through to them,” she told reporters in Canberra.

“They are looking for small amounts of assistance but they are being told they are not fire-affected enough.”

Ms Templeman said the small business community, in particular, was feeling desperate and on edge.