A REFUSAL by the Attorney General to meet with the mayors of 19 Cape York and Torres councils over their disaster recovery arrangements is outrageous, says Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch.
Kym Jerome, CEO of the Regional Organisation of Councils of Cape York and Torres Shire (ROCCY), wrote to the Hon Nicola Roxon MP on March 27 asking to schedule an urgent meeting for mid-April.
The mayors have “serious concerns” with the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangement policy, which does not refund them for emergency works carried out under NDRRA funding since it was moved from state to federal control.
In a group submission, the mayors state that under the rules they may be forced to ‘park up’ council machinery and resources in a disaster situation while they wait for an external contractor to mobilise.
The NDRRA also prevents Cape councils from directly tendering on contracts as they cannot expense day labour against the contract, and – as the largest employers in the communities say the rules affect their ability to reduce the number of jobless and instil pride in the local workforce.
While the mayors were prepared to travel to the city most convenient for Ms Roxon, Ms Jerome said they were shocked to receive a terse response from her office stating that the Attorney-General “receives many requests from a large number of organisations and individuals”.
“Unfortunately, it is simply not possible for the Attorney-General to accept all of these requests, and on this occasion we regret that the Attorney-General is unable to accept yours,” the email read.
Appealing to Mr Entsch’s office for help, Ms Jerome said the mayors could not understand why their request had failed.
“I am stunned in the knowledge that they were disregarded in this manner,” she said.
Her comments were backed by Mr Entsch who said he was disgusted with the Attorney General’s response, given that a deputation was fully prepared to travel from the Cape.
“Here we have a group of 19 elected Indigenous mayors who are deeply concerned about the impacts of this policy on their already-strained budgets and Ms Roxon cannot spare an hour to listen to them,” he said. “It’s a disgrace.”
Mr Entsch has contacted Senator Barnaby Joyce, Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Local Government, who today (TUESDAY) agreed to travel to the Far North for a meeting with the group.
“Given the fragility of council funds at the moment he said there was no way he would make these mayors use council resources to travel to Melbourne or Brisbane or wherever the meeting might be,” Mr Entsch said.
“He is more than happy to Cairns or the Far North to discuss the challenges that these communities are facing.”
The ROCCY council will now liaise on a suitable date with Mr Joyce.