Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (16:04): This government wants to talk about economic recovery. They want to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Well, from where I'm standing nothing could be further from the truth. This government has no idea what regional areas like my electorate of Gilmore on the New South Wales South Coast need. They have no plan to help us recover from this year from hell. We suffered from drought, bushfires and floods, all well before coronavirus.
At every opportunity I have stood here and asked those opposite to do more, to actually look at what areas like the New South Wales South Coast need for our economy. Even before the unprecedented threats of this year, I begged those opposite to invest in local jobs on the South Coast. We have the highest youth unemployment rate in New South Wales. Our youth unemployment rate before COVID, before bushfires, was 18.7 per cent. In the December quarter last year alone Nowra's unemployment rate was 17½ per cent. They have had no plan to address this. They have done nothing.
I have asked the government to invest in projects like the Princes Highway, affordable housing projects in Bomaderry and east Nowra—now there's a great idea, affordable housing—the East Arterial Road, Currarong Road, the Mogo Adventure Trail, the Eurobodalla hospital. The list goes on. That is without even considering the bushfire recovery. But what has the government done instead? They have given $25,000 so that people in city areas can renovate their homes. Apparently this will save our economy. We have people still living in caravans waiting for their homes that were destroyed by bushfire in December to be cleaned up. But this lot are more worried about home renos. How out of touch can this government be?
Only last week we discovered the truth about the bushfire clean-up. Less than one in three destroyed and damaged properties in my electorate have been cleared. In the Shoalhaven 280 out of 772 destroyed properties have been cleared. In the Eurobodalla the story is even worse with 331 out of 1,195—absolutely appalling. All the government knows how to do is make flashy announcements and false promises. They don't know how to follow through. They leave people out time and time again. There was one tiny project under the Building Better Regions Fund and one tiny project under the Manufacturing Modernising Fund. People are still ineligible for the Drought Communities Programme Extension. Job opportunities have been squandered and there's no plan to help communities on the South Coast.
How about bushfire proofing our emergency evacuation centres? When the bushfires came so many communities were cut off with only one road in and one road out. Then the power and the telecommunications failed. People were left with nothing. Ulladulla Civic Centre was lucky. The circus was in town and they kept the lights on. But what about elsewhere? People were left scared and frightened. Those opposite could listen to Lana who said this on my Facebook page only yesterday:
About evacuation centres: they should be made accessible. So many elderly people and those with mobility issues could not access the centres we had during this summer. I know people who were in motorised wheelchairs rolling around with a garden hose because there was no point evacuating to somewhere they couldn't access.
This is outrageous. It should never happen anywhere. But where is the government's plan to fix it?
We need to also make sure every region has a fit for purpose emergency operations centre. When the Currowan fire was split in two, the Eurobodalla emergency operations centre was run out of a community hall, complete with fold up tables from Bunnings. The staff there did an amazing job, but why should they have had to do it in those conditions?
The next tragedy might not be on the New South Wales South Coast but you can bet it will be somewhere. So why is the government focusing on renovations that most people can't afford anyway? This is just too little too late for people impacted by bushfire. As Mirren said:
Plenty of us would have qualified to help us rebuild, but we've already signed with builders, thus making us ineligible…It's a slap in the face.
Indeed it is. Those opposite aren't listening.