NSW Liberal MP Andrew Constance has fought back tears while addressing the devastating aftermath of the bushfire crisis and the widespread toll it is having on communities both financially and emotionally.
Appearing on The Project on Friday evening, Mr Constance expressed his frustration with “bureaucracies” holding up processing payments to people who were in desperate need of it to survive.
“Unfortunately there's a lot of people saying to me on the ground they're just not seeing the payments and they're struggling with that because there is no bright future for people at the moment,” Mr Constance said.
“It's tough. And we just need everybody to understand that any announcements that are made, just make sure that the money can go straight out. Not a week, or a month or two down the track.
“We just need everybody to just work together and understand it, particularly bureaucracies, you know, don't hold things up, we need help.”
The Project co-host James Mathison responded, saying: “The Federal [Government] Services Minister said in response to your call-out… that you couldn’t be more wrong about the delays.
“According to him, most payments are hitting bank accounts within 30 minutes, where’s the disconnect there? That sounds pretty quick.”
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Mr Constance said Minister Stuart Robert needed to understand many victims who live in “localities which people haven't even heard of” can’t jump in cars and drive to major centres like Bega or Batemans Bay.
“So there is a real need to make sure that the outreach happens for people in that sense and I know he might be using numbers and stuff, but just be conscious there's a humanitarian issue here, and people are hurting,” the MP said.
Mr Robert told the ABC earlier on Friday payments had been handed out for almost 42,000 claims.
"They got their phone answered in seven seconds, they got their claim done in 15 minutes and most of them got paid in 30 minutes,” the Minister for Government Services said.
"The speed at which we're operating now is unseen in a disaster in this country."
NSW Liberal MP Andrew Constance stepped aside as transport minister to focus on rebuilding his community. He got emotional as he spoke to The Project about the impact the bushfires have had on the mental health of the people hardest hit by the fires. pic.twitter.com/kMaiNag5ev
— The Project (@theprojecttv) January 17, 2020
‘I can’t sleep’ from bushfire trauma: Constance
Throughout the interview, Mr Constance appeared to fight back tears a number of times before composing himself.
He said it was watching children grapple with anxiety in the wake of the disaster that made him particularly upset.
“Some people are experiencing a second wave of disaster in terms of what's the future holding for their livelihoods and their jobs, and it makes you want to break down and get upset,” he said.
“But it is just the littlies that get me upset, they are the ones that are going to have some anxieties out of it.”
Mr Constance was also in no denial about the work he and his family had ahead of them to take care of their mental health, saying they’re all going to have to get counselling.
“There's just so much trauma. Anyone who lived through the fire event like I did, I mean, I can't sleep,” he said.
Mr Constance was praised for his openness by The Project viewers who took to Twitter following the episode to express their appreciation.
“Not sure I’ve seen an elected representative interview like that before. Raw, honest and powerful,” one person wrote.
“Wow. Very raw, visceral appearance on #TheProjectTV by Andrew Constance. Feeling for him right now and indeed ALL of those people affected by these fires. The mental health toll cannot be underestimated,” a second social media user said.
“This interview with Andrew Constance is powerful and you can absolutely viscerally feel the pain he sees, feels and is trying to convey as minister. Wow. Humanity and politics. He’s an exception,” another added.
“Andrew Constance is clearly a human first, and a politician second,” a fourth person shared.
“What a moving interview. Hard to watch, important to watch. Thank you for showing your vulnerability, Andrew Constance. May it get easier for you and your family, and everyone in your community & elsewhere,” one Twitter user said.
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