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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 843

Queensland and New South Wales Floods


Ms SAFFIN (Page) (14:09): Prime Minister, how is the Commonwealth assisting communities impacted by recent flooding in New South Wales and Queensland?


Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:09): I thank the member for Page for her question. I know that, unfortunately, she and the community that she represents are no strangers to dealing with flood situations. I have had the opportunity to talk to the member and to members of her community about flooding there in the past.

On the weekend, I travelled to the townships of St George and Roma in Queensland and Moree in New South Wales to visit communities affected by flooding. I was accompanied by the members for Maranoa and Parkes and by Senator Barnaby Joyce for different pieces of the journey. Whilst we travelled, we had the opportunity to meet with people directly affected by flooding.

Flood waters in Queensland were starting to subside but of course there were people who were returning to their homes and seeing the damage that had been done. Many of the people that we met had actually seen their homes on this occasion flooded for the second time, and some of them for the third time. It is understandable that when people have to turn around and turn around, and sometimes turn around again, to restore their homes to liveability after a flood, it strains patience and it strains people's emotional reserves. We saw that on display in these communities. In Moree, to take just one example, I visited with Kent and Julie Harris, who invited me into their home. It was Julie's birthday and she said the best present she was going to get was to sleep in her own bed after being away from her home for 10 days.

As we have seen in other natural disasters, on this occasion we saw the best of Australia on display—the magnificent response of the volunteers, the SES and the emergency personnel, and of course the ADF, who were out in these communities helping with the clean-up. We also have Centrelink staff out there helping people get payments processed.

We are in the course of dispersing more than $5 billion to Queensland for flood recovery from the natural disasters that we lived through last year. In this set of floods, we are making assistance available. In the Australian government disaster recovery payments, we have already granted 12,473 claims that have totalled $14 million so far. The journey of recovery for these communities will continue and we will be with them as they go through that journey of recovery. Many of them also raised with me the need to look at flood mitigation and of course we will be working with those communities and the Queensland government on that. For now, our thoughts are with them as they get about cleaning up the community and their homes, and restarting their lives.