Conduct of the inquiry
its meetings on 30 October and 1 December 2014, the committee agreed to
consider the terms of reference to separately envisage a fund that would a)
assist rural and manufacturing industries in crisis and b) support
communities affected by natural disasters, as two distinct parts. The
committee also agreed to call for submissions and undertake a number of public
hearings as part of the inquiry process.
the committee conducted three public hearings: Canberra—1 December 2014,
Hobart—4 February 2015, Melbourne—5 February 2015. On
Monday 9 February 2015 during its regular committee meeting, the committee
resolved that it would not hold a scheduled public hearing in Brisbane.
advertising the inquiry in the national press and writing to over 200
organisations and individuals inviting them to contribute to the inquiry, the committee
received only 18 submissions, and heard from 15 stakeholders over the three
report focusses on the provision of assistance and support, including research,
to rural and manufacturing industries in crisis, as well as drought, which does
not fall under the Productivity Commission's (PC) criteria as a natural
disaster. The report comprises three chapters: Chapter One—an introduction,
background and reference to PC Report; Chapter Two—Drought Assistance; Chapter
Three—Rural and Manufacturing Industry assistance.
the course of the inquiry the federal government publicly discussed the PC's inquiry
into Natural Disaster Funding Arrangements which the government requested the
PC undertake in April 2014. The PC report is a comprehensive inquiry into how
natural disasters are currently managed, and argues a case for a redirection of
Commonwealth funding to focus more on providing mitigation funding instead of the
current disaster recovery focus. The final report was released in May 2015.
Minster for Justice, the Hon Michael Keenan MP, has also made statements
discussing a rebalancing of assistance and support and suggested that the
government plan to engage the states and territories with a view to changing the
emphasis from post-disaster recovery funding to mitigation efforts:
Australia is a uniquely
disaster-prone continent and we need to make sure that the billions of dollars
we do spend is being spent in the most effective way, and clearly spending more
on mitigation prior to a disaster occurring makes a lot of common sense...we need
to discuss it with the states who are obviously very important stakeholders in
this area, and make sure we can map a way forward nationally.
to the significant crossover into the committee's terms of reference by the
PC's inquiry, and that the government is yet to provide a formal response to
the PC inquiry's report, the committee is not in a position to comment on the
issues arising from that inquiry. On this basis, the committee's report does
not comment on the natural disaster element of its own terms of reference,
instead it makes reference to the PC report's findings and points the
parliament to the government's forthcoming response and any subsequent policy
developments when they are made available.
regard to the committee's other terms of reference that relate to current
bankruptcy laws and provisions, the committee did not receive any evidence on
these aspects of the inquiry and is therefore not in a position to report on
The establishment of an Australia Fund
discussed, throughout the following two chapters, there are a number of
policies, programs, funds and other types of assistance and support available
to individuals, communities and businesses impacted by natural disasters and
economic crisis. The question put by the terms of reference is essentially
whether the design and quantum of these measures would benefit from the
establishment of a sovereign wealth fund.
the committee received evidence that there are gaps in the current patchwork of
financial assistance be it through a range of direct support, post tax relief
or tariff based relief, there was no suggestion that current issues would be
ameliorated through the creation of a single fund.
the committee did not receive any evidence of how such a fund could be
structured or how it would be funded. For these reasons the committee does not
recommend that a fund be established, and given the relatively low response to
the committee's call for evidence, it is of the view there is not an
overwhelming desire by stakeholders for the government to proceed down this
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