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Albo's $200 million promise to 'prevent' natural disasters

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Federal Labor will spend $200 million a year on natural disaster prevention and readiness, should it win the next election.

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Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said a Disaster Ready Fund would be established to help finance disaster prevention projects such as flood levees, evacuation shelters, fire breaks and improving telecommunications.

Annual disaster prevention funding would be matched by state, territory and local governments under the proposal.

“These investments will literally save lives, not to mention the taxpayers’ funds that have to be spent on recovery and repairs when disasters hit,” Albanese said.

“Australians are renowned as the best disaster responders in the world. They deserve to be backed by a government that looks forward, plans and prevents the worst.”

Under the plan, Labor would also overhaul the government’s emergency response fund.

The fund was set up by the government in late 2019 during the black summer bushfires.

Albanese said the government had not spent any funds from the more than $4 billion pool available since it was established.

“Three years after it was announced, the emergency response fund has not spent a cent on disaster recovery and has not completed a single disaster prevention project,” he said.

“The only thing it has done is earn the government over $750 million in investment returns.”

The changes to the fund by Labor would see $200 million be spent annually on disaster preparation initiatives.

The Local Government Association of Queensland welcomed the pledge, saying many councils had millions of dollars worth of disaster resilience projects ready to proceed but were hamstrung by lack of adequate funding available.

LGAQ chief executive Alison Smith said the Labor commitment was a big step in the right direction for communities in Australia’s most disaster-prone state.

“Spending that can help mitigate the impacts of events such as flooding, cyclone damage and bushfires is an absolute necessity,” Ms Smith said.

“The LGAQ has been advocating for some time for funds to start flowing from the Federal Government’s Emergency Response Fund (ERF) so that councils can get on with crucial work that will reduce the impact of natural disasters.”

The opposition has promised to cut red tape to make sure funding can be delivered more quickly, along with speeding up payments to disaster victims.

It has also pledged to help with insurance premiums, which are increasing in regions more prone to events such as bushfires and floods.

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