Speech: Support for Fire-Affected Small Businesses
The bushfire crisis has drawn unthinkable devastation onto our communities, our environment, our animals and our country—a crisis that we will, unfortunately, remember for years to come. Lives and livelihoods have been lost, along with homes, businesses and properties. It has been a tragic time, and it is hard to imagine the stress that small businesses in affected communities have also come under.
Summer is normally the busiest time of the year for many small businesses in New South Wales, especially in the regional areas. But many are struggling to stay afloat and to make any income at all in the aftermath of these devastating bushfires. In my home state of New South Wales, where fires have been burning the longest, the crisis has had a devastating impact on local economies, and hence local communities. Small businesses in affected areas are at the brink. Many are unsure whether their businesses will survive into the next year.
I met producers from Cobargo on the New South Wales South Coast recently, where bushfires have created carnage. Cobargo is now best known as the town where locals refused to shake Prime Minister Scott Morrison's hand—and rightly so. It was heartbreaking to hear that the producers had lost almost all of their growing capacity on their farm in the wake of these bushfires. They stand to lose the farm, but they do not qualify for any assistance in the current offering from the government. They're not asking for a blank cheque but for support to get back on their feet. And they should be provided with that support.
This must be a serious wake-up call for this government not only to do everything they can to help people get back on their feet but also to tackle the climate crisis. Communities across Australia, from city to country and from every corner, have pitched in. We have seen the spirit of our community rise and overcome the devastation and tragedy that people in the country have suffered. Perhaps it is impossible to ever know the true cost of the bushfires, but we know that people across the nation have rolled up their sleeves and got to work. And they deserve all the help they can get. Now it is on the decision-makers to step up and do their job. The government must commit to serious action on the climate crisis. Without this, we risk further exposing communities and local economies to future disasters of unprecedented severity.
We have all the evidence. We have been warned by experts over and over for decades. With its inaction on climate, the government is leaving all of us exposed to a dreadful future, where more extreme weather events will become more common.