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Bushfire Cleanup deadline may not be achievable and Critical Communications upgrades delayed


At a Budget Estimates hearing yesterday in NSW Parliament, Deputy Premier John Barilaro admitted that he could not guarantee the clean-up of all properties destroyed in the recent bushfire disaster could be cleaned up by the June 30 deadline he committed to in early February. The NSW Government awarded the clean-up contract to the British multinational Laing O’Rourke at the end of January, but the company admitted in February that it could only begin to mobilise the 20 teams it expected to deploy statewide by early March. “The Government are guilty of dithering and delay at every turn during this disaster recovery process,” said Labor’s Shadow Minister for Rebuilding and Recovery, Yasmin Catley MP. “The Labor Government in Victoria showed us the way in 2009 and they are leading the way again this time around. They are well on their way to finishing their cleanup process while the Liberals in Macquarie Street have completely failed to get things moving in bushfire ravaged towns across our state.”. Under questioning from Labor MPs in Estimates, government bureaucrats were unable to point to key performance indicators or benchmarks for Laing O’Rourke to demonstrate their progress on the clean-up effort. “These bushfire survivors, many of whom would be paying both a mortgage and rent on temporary accommodation, need their destroyed properties cleaned up quickly so they can tackle their rebuild projects, but every bit of dithering and delay by this Government just adds to their costs and their heartache,” Ms Catley said.

Above: Jo Lane from Sea Health Products and Karolina Russell from Moruya met up with Leanne Atkinson and Labor’s Shadow Minister for Rebuilding and Recovery, Yasmin Catley this week to discuss the concerns around the economic support shortfalls for sole trader businesses. Critical Communications Network Upgrades Essential For Fires - Delayed By One Year And $217 Million Over Budget

NSW Minister for Customer Service Victor Dominello has admitted upgrades to the State’s Critical Communications Network have been delayed and are over budget. During a Budget Estimates hearing on Monday, 9 March 2020, the NSW Government admitted the rollout of the Critical Communications Enhancement Program has been delayed by one year, and the $401 million project is $217 million over-budget. Sophie Cotsis MP, Shadow Minister For Better Public Services said in a media release "The Berejiklian Government has failed to deliver promised improvements to the radio network used by emergency services including the Rural Fire Service, NSW Fire and Rescue, and the State Emergency Service." "On Thursday, 5 March 2020, Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said there were challenges with the existing communication system and stated: “If this network was up and running at its fullest in the last fire season, of course things would have been different.” "Mr Fitzsimmons also revealed that the current network is in such a bad state that during the most recent bushfire season RFS volunteers were forced to deal with overloaded radio networks, spotty coverage and to try and make “radio towers on wheels” to haphazardly fill in service gaps." During the Budget Estimates hearing, the NSW Government admitted:

The first three stages of the program are a year behind schedule, and will not be completed until the end of 2022; The cost to deliver the first three stages has blown-out from $401 million to $618 million; and The final stage of the program (stage 4), which would cover much of southern and regional NSW, is not funded and has no expected completion date.

“Frontline emergency service workers depend on good communications systems,” Shadow Minister for Better Public Services Sophie Cotsis said. “Minister Dominello is mismanaging the upgrade of the government’s radio network. “This program has been delayed and it is now over budget – frontline emergency service workers deserve better.”

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