Two days after the Commonwealth rejected the bulk of Queensland’s proposed multimillion-dollar flood recovery package, Scott Morrison has had a change of heart.
The $741 million plan now appears likely to proceed, but the Prime Minister warned there were caveats to the federal government agreeing to split the cost.
“They want to play politics with this. I don’t want to play politics with this, I just want to make sure people are getting the support that they need,” Mr Morrison told Brisbane radio 4BC on Thursday.
“We’ll meet that 50-50 cost, but there’ll be a couple of conditions.”
The Queensland government was sitting on $52 million provided for previous disaster recovery, Mr Morrison said.
“I want them to be transparent with the payments that are being made. I want them to report to the public,” he said.
Mr Morrison maintained that the bulk of the $741 million package, which includes funding for flood-proofing measures and a property buyback program, was usually state responsibilities.
The comments came just a day after acting premier Cameron Dick took aim at Mr Morrison, also claiming politics was the reason the state’s request was initially refused.
He rejected claims that most of the package included initiatives that were a state responsibility, saying it was an exceptional circumstances application under disaster recovery arrangements.
Mr Dick on Thursday said he was pleased Mr Morrison had “finally seen the light”.
“He had three weeks to respond to our letter, now 36 hours later he’s turned around. But ultimately it’s not about me, it’s about the people of Queensland,” he told 4BC.
Queensland’s disaster recovery spending was done through the state’s Reconstruction Authority, and Mr Morrison had advisers on the board, Mr Dick said.
“He’s got two people who are involved in administering the funding that goes out for natural disasters,” he said.
About 7800 homes were damaged during the recent Queensland floods, 4000 of which are uninhabitable, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority said.
State Liberal National leader David Crisafulli described the funding negotiations as a mess.
“My message to the federal government is just pay the money, and my message to the state government is for once deliver a project on time and on budget,” he said.
But the tit-for-tat appears likely to continue as the federal election looms, as senior Commonwealth minister Karen Andrews delivered her own criticism.
“The behaviour of the Queensland state government yesterday was just disgraceful,” she told Sky News on Thursday.
“They played with the people who have been deeply affected by the floods.”
Ms Andrews believed the state government would “attempt to be the federal opposition” when the election campaign began.