KAP member for Mt Isa Rob Katter has secured a result from the federal government after campaigning for the unreasonable Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangement (NDRRA) funding day labour restrictions to be lifted.
Previously lobbying with the State Government on this issue, Mr Katter is pleased that Queensland has secured an exemption to the Labour Rule which gave councils little room to move when deciding how the post-disaster funding would be spent.
“Under the previous NDRRA rulings by the federal government, funding could not be attributed to “salaries, wages of other ongoing administrative activities,” leaving rural councils little choice but to seek subcontractors – which often had detrimental impacts on small shires.
“The previous restrictions placed on NDRRA funding was unworkable for regions looking to sustain a local work force,” Mr Katter said.
“Councils had been prevented from using their own employees to make disaster repairs and this was a serious setback for them at a time when regional towns are shrinking and the region is in the grip of drought.
“Outside contractors were doing the jobs of the local work force, so the towns the Commonwealth was supposed to be building up were on the verge of disappearing,” he said.
Councils such as the Carpentaria Shire Council were even prevented from employing redundant staff from Croydon shire for day labour jobs under the previous NDRRA restrictions.
“I’m glad to see common sense has eventually prevailed,” Mr Katter said.
“These communities have already been hit hard by drought and the loss of jobs.
“Restoring a council’s ability to undertake their own NDRRA works will hopefully provide some relief for these towns and communities,” he said.
Mr Katter notes that while the news is positive for many in regional Queensland the temporary exemption comes with an extensive list of conditions.
“Only time will show just how positive this exemption is,” Mr Katter said.
“The specifications granted in the exemption need to be flexible enough to allow councils some movement.
Mr Katter said he is grateful for the current government’s support while lobbying for this cause.
The Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangement (NDRRA) is provided by the Queensland Reconstruction Authority under the Federal Government to assist the recovery assistance of disaster affected communities.
While this funding has been made available for flood and cyclone affected regions, councils were prevented from using their own workforce to make the repairs under the day labour provision.
A section 5.2.5 (d) of the NDRRA determination specifies ineligible expenditure to include:
“d) amounts attributable to salaries or wages or other ongoing administrative expenditure for which the state would have been liable even though the eligible measure has not been carried out.”
Ultimately this section had ensured councils use contract labour for the repairs as opposed to local government employees.
The recent exemption approved by the federal Minister for Justice, Hon Michael Keenan includes conditions such as:
- The exemption will apply only to Queensland.
- Disasters occurring in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 eligible for the exemption.
- An independent assessor will be appointed by the Commonwealth to oversee the funding.
- Local governments are required to demonstrate ‘value-for-money’ outcomes.