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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Won’t be back to parliament early 

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Ballina MP Tamara Smith

Calls by local NSW Greens MP Tamara Smith to return to parliament early to enact laws that would allow immediate cash payments to bushfire survivors have been rejected by local Nationals MLC Ben Franklin.

Franklin, who lost against incumbent MP Tamara Smith in the March 2019 election, told The Echo, that instead members of NSW parliament, ‘Should be in their electorates providing what support they can during this period.

‘The bushfires in Australia at the moment are devastating and the government is working around the clock to support families and communities who have lost so much.

‘NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian [Liberal] has announced a $1 billion boost to the NSW Disaster Relief Package to rebuild roads, schools, bridges and other infrastructure, to get towns and communities back on their feet.

‘The state government has worked closely with the federal government to deliver a further $2 billion in bushfire disaster relief funds, which will focus on cash payments to individuals, small businesses and councils’.

Despite the rhetoric, there are reports that those who have lost everything have been provided with just $1,280 (for an individual) in relief funding from the NSW government (Source: ABC).

Yet Franklin claims his government is ‘committed to supporting affected individuals, families and the broader community to get back on their feet as soon as possible.’

Ben Franklin being sworn back into the senate as parliamentary secretary for energy and the arts after a failed bid in the lower house in 2019. Photo supplied.

$3b package

He says the state and federal coalition governments have ‘allocated over $3 billion to help affected areas’.

‘It is critical that people in affected areas can access a range of support as quickly as possible.

‘The government also offers an array of services to bushfire affected populations including site clean-up, for both insured and uninsured properties, and a Bushfire Housing Assistance Service to provide accommodation options and financial assistance for temporary accommodation to those whose homes have been lost.

‘Minister for Agriculture, Adam Marshall, has also established emergency fodder points to provide feed to stock affected by fires, and through the Department of Primary Industries, animal welfare services are being offered, including veterinary support and care of animals in evacuation centres.

MPs should support communities

‘Many MPs on all sides of parliament live in fire affected areas and have been supporting their communities and defending their towns (and sometimes their own homes) during this devastating time.

‘An early return to Parliament, I believe, would be inappropriate.

‘Access to health services is extremely important for all those in fire affected areas and I would encourage everyone to get regular health check-ups and see their doctor if they have any concerns’.

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  1. I don’t vote greens but really giving this much space to a professional politician who hasn’t had any life experiences really! Privileged private school boy whose only job was working for nats. Why give him the space when all he did last election was promise money left right and centre, then when he lost back into the upper house. The reason they don’t want to discuss funding is because they can blame ngo’s like vinnies who are doing the hard yards for the government.

    • I think you are a little unfair about Ben. Dr Wiki tells us he was the child of school teachers who to his credit won a scholarship to Cranbrook. He was originally elected to the Legislative Council; his appointment was only because of the vacancy caused by his resignation to run for the Legislative Assembly. Ben has become a local resident and, although an MLC with a state-wide portfolio, continues to work with and be accessible to the local community. Although of course they do not always agree, we are fortunate in Ballina electorate and the broader Northern Rivers to have in both Ben and Tamara two articulate, hard working locals providing voices for us in the parliament.


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