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Federal-state spat over cyclone funding

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July 15, 2017

Houses at Rockhampton shown surrounded by floodwaters after Cyclone Debbie.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan has accused the Queensland government of "playing politics" with disaster relief after Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said federal money to help Cyclone Debbie victims was "paltry assistance".

She was responding to the Turnbull government's approval of $58.6 million of a requested $220 million to help communities devastated by Debbie in March this year.

Ms Palaszczuk said in a statement that cyclone-hit communities had been short-changed by the federal govenment's "callous refusal" to match her government's $110 million for recovery funding.

"The Turnbull government has insulted Queensland, approving a total package of $58.6 million with their share amounting to an embarrassing $29.3 million - just 0.006 per cent of the total federal budget."

Ms Palaszczuk also criticised the federal government for taking two months to inform communities they would get "such paltry assistance".

She accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of abandoning the affected communities, after being "happy to visit the devastated area with the media in tow".

But Mr Keenan bit back, saying the Commonwealth had over the past decade paid more than $10 billion in disaster recovery funds to the states, with more than 85 per cent of that going to Queensland.

He said the Palaszczuk government was well aware the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA) were a safety net to help communities recover from disasters, "not a slush fund to pay for new infrastructure".

"Instead, they tried to get the Commonwealth to provide $161 million in funding for projects that they know are ineligible," Mr Keenan said in a statement.

He cited state government applications for $40 million for the Whitsunday Coast airport enhancement project and $60 million for the South Rockhampton flood levee, a new infrastructure project.

Mr Keenan accused the state government of "trying to rort Australian taxpayers to prop up its own budget" and called on it to "stop playing political games".

Queensland's Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said that in the past the Commonwealth had agreed to fund projects that councils nominated as important to the recovery of their communities.

"There are no guidelines stating what projects would be eligible or ineligible and no requirement that only damaged infrastructure can be funded," she said.

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