Christensen calls for foreign aid to be halted in wake of cyclone
DAWSON MP George Christensen has criticised foreign aid payments in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie as an "insult to people who have already suffered horrendous losses".
The conservative Coalition politician said cyclone victims are struggling to access government payments while billions of dollars are being sent overseas.
"People had their homes blown to pieces, flooded, and left without electricity for more than 10 days but have been denied disaster relief funding. Meanwhile, they hear on the news that Australia has just committed another $320 million in foreign aid to Afghanistan," he said.
"If we can't afford to get aid to our own citizens in time of need, we shouldn't be sending aid overseas."
Mr Christensen said he had been speaking with the State Government about a "bungled delivery of recovery payments".
"It's been more than a week now and I am still getting calls from people at their wits end because the State Government is telling them they weren't affected by the cyclone," he said.
"Some of these homes were right in Cyclone Debbie's path so I'm pretty sure it wasn't the Big Bad Wolf that came and blew their roof off.
"Australia has witnessed a major natural disaster occur in a number of regions, starting with the tropical cyclone crossing the coast between Bowen and the Whitsundays. I believe charity should begin at home and if we can't get that right there is no point sending charity overseas."
"It might look good on the world stage to puff out the chest and make a great display of generosity with borrowed money. But you garner no respect if you can't even look after your own citizens. It's embarrassing."
Mr Christensen said Category C of the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements had not been activated yet, which would make $5000 payments available for not-for-profit organisations, $10,000 for small businesses, and $25,000 for farmers.
"Until this is sorted - not one dollar should be spent on foreigners," he said.
Mr Christensen said he was sure countries who receive aid would understand domestic aid following Cyclone Debbie would be top priority.
UPDATE: In response to Mr Christensen's comments, a spokesman for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the preparation for and the immediate response to ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie involved all three levels of government and all will be involved in the recovery.
"Along with the Premier, local State Members like Julieanne Gilbert and Ministers have been on the ground to ensure issues such as reconnecting power, reopening and repairing roads, resupplying communities and administering joint Commonwealth-State assistance are being addressed," she said.
Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert said "the focus of the Palaszczuk Government, and for me as Member for Mackay, is helping the people impacted by Cyclone Debbie, not politicking".
She added more than $15 million has been paid to more than 35,000 people in terms of immediate hardship assistance under NDRRA.
"The question for Mr Christensen is why the people of Mackay had to wait eight days (until April 5) after Debbie crossed the coast before the Federal Government announced its separate disaster recovery payment would be activated for them as it had been for the people in the Whitsunday, and why he - by his own admission - only raised it 24 hours earlier, a full week after Debbie crossed the coast"
Meanwhile, Mackay Conservation Group's coordinator criticised Mr Christensen's call to halt foreign aid, considering "the (Federal) Government is proposing to give $1 billion (in a loan) to the Indian billionaire Gautam Adani".
Peter McCallum said instead of loaning Adani the money to facilitate the Carmichael Mine, the funds would be better spent on cyclone shelters in north Queensland.
"We saw the evacuation ordered for Mackay, 25,000 people, and yet there's no cyclone shelter in the city which could accommodate those people," he said.
Mr McCallum believes Mr Christensen's calls to cut foreign aid were misdirected.