The federal government is committing an additional $2 billion over two years to a new agency tasked with rebuilding bushfire-ravaged towns.
The national bushfire recovery agency will be led by former Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin, working closely with the states and territories to rebuild homes and critical infrastructure destroyed in the bushfires.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement after a National Security Committee of Cabinet meeting in Canberra.
“The $2 billion commitment is an additional cost, an initial commitment, and if further funds are required, further funds will be provided,” Mr Morrison said.
The new bushfire recovery agency will operate for at least two years and the new funding is separate to existing disaster relief payments.
“What we are focusing on here is the human cost and the rebuilding cost for people’s lives,” Mr Morrison said.
“We’re focused on the financial cost, we’re focused on the human costs and ensuring we can do everything we can, as quickly as we can, to support that recovery effort.”
There had been speculation that costs associated with the bushfires could spoil the Government’s plan to offer a surplus in the current financial year.
Mr Morrison claimed “the surplus is of no focus to me”.
“We will make every investment that needs to be made.”
The indicative costs for the bushfire response for the current year are $500 million. The budget surplus was predicted to be $5 billion in December.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese had called for a quicker response to the unfolding crisis.
“I wrote to the Prime Minister calling for COAG to be convened in mid-November, which is when I think it should have been,” he told radio station 5AA.
“I do think from the beginning there should have been a national response that was agreed to by Prime Minister on Saturday.”
The response to Cyclone Yasi and the Brisbane floods cost $5.6 billion over six years.