PM backflips on Qld flood funding request

Nick Gibbs |

Two days after the Commonwealth rejected the bulk of Queensland’s proposed multimillion-dollar flood recovery package, Scott Morrison has had a change of heart.

The $741 million plan now appears likely to proceed, but the prime minister warned there were caveats to the federal government agreeing to split the cost.

“They want to play politics with this. I don’t want to play politics with this, I just want to make sure people are getting the support that they need,” Mr Morrison told Brisbane radio 4BC on Thursday. 

“So we’ll meet that 50-50 cost, but there’ll be a couple of conditions.”

The Queensland government was sitting on $52 million provided for previous disaster recovery, the prime minister said. 

“I want them to be transparent with the payments that are being made. I want them to report to the public,” he said.

Mr Morrison maintained that the bulk of the $741 million package, which includes funding for flood-proofing measures and a property buyback program, was for matters that were usually the responsibility of the state.

The comments came just a day after acting premier Cameron Dick took aim at Mr Morrison, claiming politics was the reason the state’s request was initially refused. 

He rejected claims most of the package included initiatives that were a state responsibility, saying it was an exceptional circumstances application under disaster recovery arrangements.

Mr Dick on Thursday said he was pleased the prime minister had “finally seen the light”.

“He had three weeks to respond to our letter, now 36 hours later he’s turned around. But ultimately it’s not about me, it’s about the people of Queensland,” he told 4BC.

Queensland’s disaster recovery spending was managed through the state’s Reconstruction Authority, and Mr Morrison had advisers on the board, Mr Dick said.

“He’s got two people who are involved in administering the funding that goes out for natural disasters,” he said. 

About 7800 homes were damaged during the recent Queensland floods, 4000 of which are uninhabitable, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority said.

State Liberal National leader David Crisafulli described the funding negotiations as a mess.

“My message to the federal government is just pay the money, and my message to the state government is for once deliver a project on time and on budget,” he said.

The Insurance Council of Australia has welcomed the decision, saying improving the resilience of homes and communities was the responsibility of all levels of Australian government.

“Resilience and mitigation funding is an investment into future protection,” ICA boss Andrew Hall said.

“Unless we can reduce the risk with stronger homes located in the right places, extreme events will continue to cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and the mental health and trauma of communities will continue to be experienced.”